A former commander of Russia’s Wagner Group who had fought in Ukraine said he has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum after deserting in fear for his life.
Andrei Medvedev, who joined the group on July 6th, 2022, with a four-month contract, said in a video posted by the Gulagu.net rights group that he had crossed the border with Norway before being detained by Norwegian police.
Mr Medvedev, an orphan who joined the Russian army and served time in prison before joining Wagner, said he had slipped away from the group after witnessing the killing of captured deserters from Wagner.
“I am afraid of dying in agony,” Mr Medvedev told Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the Gulagu.net rights group, which said it had helped Mr Medvedev to leave Russia after he approached the group in fear for his life.
Mr Medvedev said he was speaking from Oslo.
He said he crossed the border, climbing through barbed-wire fences, evading a border patrol with dogs and said he heard border guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and over thin and breaking ice towards Norway.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, who founded Wagner, said that Mr Medvedev had worked in a Norwegian unit of Wagner but had “mistreated prisoners”.
“Be careful, he’s very dangerous,” Mr Prigozhin said in a statement released by his spokeswoman. Mr Prigozhin did not address the claims of killings or mistreatment of prisoners in the statement.
In interviews with Gulagu, Mr Medvedev said he grew disaffected after his contract was repeatedly extended by Wagner without his consent and witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners who were brought to the front by Wagner.
Mr Medvedev said losses were very high after Wagner began sending large numbers of prisoners to the front in the second half of 2022. Wagner’s internal security service handed out extreme punishment, Mr Medvedev said.
He said a man who was shown in November being executed with a sledgehammer had been part of his unit.
The Wagner statement did not address Mr Medvedev’s accounts of punishment and of battlefield losses, or that his contract was repeatedly extended.
Mr Prigozhin has said his group is an effective fighting force because it had extensive battlefield experience, it is well supplied, has a meritocratic command system in which all can contribute and “the most severe discipline”. – Reuters