A high-ranking mercenary from Vladimir Putin’s private Wagner military company has been arrested in Norway after crossing the border.
Russian Andrey Medvedev said he came under Russian fire while crossing the Scandinavian country, where he was seeking asylum. He is currently in police custody on suspicion of entering Norway illegally, authorities said.
The Wagner deserter “has been arrested under immigration law and is being assessed whether he should be taken into custody,” Jon Andreas Johansen, of the Norwegian police, told reporters. immigration. The Norwegian newspaper VG said his detention was not a punishment, but a security measure.
Medvedev, who says he fears for his life, is believed to have entered Norway illegally after crossing the 200km-long border with Russia earlier this month.
Andrey Medvedev (pictured), a high-ranking mercenary from Vladimir Putin’s Wagner Private Military Company was arrested in Norway after crossing the border.
In a video posted by Russian dissident group Gulagu.net, Medvedev said he came under Russian fire before crossing into the Scandinavian country.
Norwegian police said they were told by Russian border guards of tracks in the snow indicating someone may have crossed the border illegally.
Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, insisted to NRK TV channel that his client was not suspected of any offense and was not used to the new security measures anymore. strict rules of Norway.
“Important security measures have been put in place. Medvedev finds it difficult to adapt to it,” Mr Risnes told NRK.
Medvedev said he was arrested and handcuffed on Sunday at a hotel where he was staying and taken to a detention center.
Gulagu.net said Medvedev was told he faced deportation.
Asked about this claim, a Norwegian police spokesman said: “No, that’s not correct”, without giving further details.
Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, put the risk of his deportation to “zero”, adding that he had been detained due to a “disagreement” over measures taken to ensure his safety. “It is subject to very strict security measures and we disagree on how they are applied. These have caused friction,” Risnes told Reuters.
Russian Andrey Medvedev said he came under Russian fire while crossing the Scandinavian country, where he was seeking asylum. Pictured: A Ukrainian soldier drives a tank near Ukraine’s Donbass frontline on January 18
Wagner gave the deserters good reason to be afraid. In November, Russian detainee-turned-Wagner fighter Yevgeny Nuzhin – who switched sides in the Ukraine war – was executed with a sledgehammer in a harrowing video that circulated online (pictured, a still from the video )
Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, which is helping to investigate war crimes in Ukraine, said it is interviewing Medvedev who “has witness status”.
Medvedev, who has been on the run since leaving the Wagner Group, reportedly told Gulagu.net he is ready to tell everything he knows about the sleazy paramilitary group and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin is a millionaire linked to the Russian president.
He is known as Putin’s boss for providing catering services to the Kremlin, in addition to leading the famous private army that executed the Kremlin’s auctions in the Middle East, Africa and now in the invasion of Ukraine. by Russia.
Medvedev said he left the Wagner Group after his contract was extended beyond the July-November period without his consent.
He said he was prepared to testify to any war crimes he allegedly witnessed and denied any involvement in them.
The Wagner group, which has spearheaded attacks on Ukrainian forces, includes a large number of convicts recruited from Russian prisons.
The group has become increasingly influential in Africa and has been linked to massacres of civilians in Mali. It gained notoriety during Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, and reports have also placed its fighters in Libya and Burkina Faso.
A Ukrainian soldier observes the situation in a locality near the northern front of Donbass
Medvedev, an orphan who joined the Russian military and served prison time before joining Wagner on July 6, 2022, said on the video on Gulagu.net that he escaped from the group after witnessing the murder of Wagner’s captured deserters.
“I’m afraid of dying in agony,” Medvedev told Vladimir Osechkin, founder of rights group Gulagu.net, who said it helped Medvedev leave Russia after he approached the group fearing for his life.
Wagner gave the deserters good reason to be afraid. In November, Russian detainee-turned-Wagner fighter Yevgeny Nuzhin – who switched sides in the Ukraine war – was executed with a sledgehammer in a harrowing video that circulated online.
Prigozhin described Nuzhin as a traitor, with Vladimir Putin’s close ally saying a “dog gets a dog’s death” in response to the clip.
Medvedev said Nuzhin had been in his unit.
“My goal in coming here was of course on the one hand to save my life and on the other hand to tell the truth to people and to the world,” he said in a phone interview with Gulagu.net, recorded Monday.
He said he also wanted to “punish” Wagner founder Prigozhin for the deaths of people who died on his orders in Ukraine.
Gulagu.net said Medvedev would face “brutal murder and death” for speaking out against Wagner if he was sent back to Russia. “We are not whitewashing Medvedev. He has done a lot of bad things in his life,” the rights group said.
“But he saw the light, he realized it, he is ready and willing to cooperate with the world, with the international investigation and with the Norwegian authorities, he wants to live and testify” against Wagner and Prigozhin, said he added.
Prigozhin (pictured left with Vladimir Putin in 2010) – himself an ex-con who is now the billionaire in charge of Wagner – took no prisoners when it came to Wagner’s defector
News of Medvedev’s arrest comes amid reports of a growing feud between the Russian president and Yevgeny Prigozhin.
It is understood that Prigozhin continually gloated that his private paramilitary fighters were more superior and effective than Russia’s conventional forces.
Earlier this month, Prigozhin undermined Putin by boasting that his fighters had single-handedly taken control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, which has been leveled by fighting.
Putin reportedly felt threatened by Prigozhin’s rise to power and his tactless assertiveness, experts at the Institute for the Study of War said today.