A former commander of Russia wagner A private military company has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum after crossing that country’s Arctic border, according to Norwegian police and a Russian activist.
Andrei Medvedev, in an interview with a Russian activist who helps people seek asylum abroad, said he feared for his life after refusing to renew his service with Wagner.
Medvedev said that after completing his contract and refusing to serve another, he was afraid of being executed in the same way as Yevgeny Nuzhin – a defector from Wagner who was killed on camera with a hammer.
“We were thrown into battle like cannon fodder,” he told Vladimir Osechkin, head of Gulagu.net, a human rights group, in a conversation posted on YouTube.
A spokesperson for the Norwegian Police Security Service confirmed to CNN on Monday that Medvedev was in Norway and seeking asylum.
“It’s been a local police investigation so far,” Eirik Veum told CNN. “But the Security Service, we are informed, and follow the investigation of course.”
The group is often described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s underground troops. It has expanded its global footprint since its inception in 2014 and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
Medvedev said he crossed the border near the Russian town of Nikel, in a phone call from Norway with Osechkin, which was published online.
The account matches that of the Finnmark Police District, which, without naming Medvedev, said it made the ‘undramatic’ arrest of a man in Pasvik, on the Norwegian side of the border, at 1.58am on Friday January 13.
In his own account, Medvedev said he crossed the border and approached the first house he could find.
“I spoke to a local woman about my situation in broken English and asked for help,” he told Osechkin in the phone call. “While I was on the road, I was approached by the border police and the police. I was taken to a department, where I was interrogated and charged with illegal crossing. I explained everything to them and told them why I did it.
“It’s a miracle that I managed to get here,” he said.
Medvedev had tried to cross into Finland twice before and failed, Osechkin told CNN on Monday.
Wagner chief Prigozhin confirmed on Telegram on Monday that Medvedev had served at his company and said he “should have been prosecuted for attempting to mistreat prisoners.”
In a December conversation with Osechkin, posted on YouTube, Medvedev denied committing any crimes in Ukraine.
“I signed a contract with the group on July 6, 2022. I had been appointed commander of the first squad of the 4th platoon of the 7th assault detachment,” he recalls. “When the prisoners started arriving, the situation in Wagner really changed. They stopped treating us like humans. We were just projected to fight like cannon fodder.
“Every week they sent us more prisoners. We have lost many men. Casualties were high. We would lose 15 to 20 men in our platoon alone. As far as I know the majority of them were buried at LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] and declared missing. If you are reported missing, there is no insurance compensation for relatives.
He claimed prisoners were “shot for refusing to fight or for betrayal”.
“I fear for my life,” he said in December. “I have not committed any crime. I refused to participate in the maneuvers of Evgeny Prigozhin.
Osechkin told CNN on Monday that he started helping Medvedev after being approached by a friend in late November.
Prigozhin, he explained, had ordered that all contracts be automatically renewed from November. When Medvedev refused to renew, he was beaten, Osechkin claimed.
“Andrei has decided to leave Wagner,” Osechkin told CNN. “Once this happened, he was wanted by Wagner’s security services and Russian special services. There was a threat to his life.
“He was afraid of being executed in the same way as Yevgeny Nuzhin – with a hammer. We, as human rights defenders, decided to help him and protect his life.
Osechkin said he helped Medvedev with groceries, clothes and a phone.
“We are not trying to justify his actions in relation to his participation in the Wagner group. But you have to understand that he decided to run away from the Wagner group as a terrorist organization that kills both Russians and Ukrainians.