The former head of the Russian arms company Wagner has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum after crossing the country’s border, according to Norwegian police and a Russian activist.
Andrei Medvedev, in an interview with a Russian asylum seeker, said he feared for his life after refusing to resume his service with Wagner.
Medvedev said that after completing his contract, refusing to serve another, he was afraid of being killed in the same way as Yevgeny Nuzhin – the opponent of Wagner who was killed on camera with a sledgehammer.
“We were thrown into the fight like cannon fodder,” said Vladimir Osechkin, director of Gulagu.net, a human rights group, in an interview with YouTube.
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A spokesperson for Norway’s Police Security Service confirmed to CNN on Monday that Medvedev was in Norway and seeking asylum.
“This is a police investigation,” Eirik Veum told CNN. “But the Security Service, we have been informed, and we are following the investigation.”
The mercenary group, led by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been instrumental in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – most recently carrying out heavy fighting in the small eastern town of Soledar.
The video shows a shootout between Ukrainian and Russian soldiers
The group is often described as the military wing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has expanded its reach around the world since it was founded in 2014, and is 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.
This story is in line with that of the Finnmark Regional Police, who, without mentioning Medvedev, said that they “surprisingly arrested” a man in Pasvik on the Norwegian side of the border at 1.58 in the morning on Friday, January 13.
In his own account, Medvedev said that he crossed the border and approached the first house he found.
“I told a local woman in broken English about my problem and asked for help,” Osechkin said in a phone call. “On the way, the border guards and the police found me. They took me to another department, where they questioned me and charged me with trespassing. I explained everything to them and told them why I did that.”
“It was amazing that I managed to get here,” he said.
Medvedev has already tried to pass through Finland twice and failed, Osechkin told CNN on Monday.
Wagner’s boss, Prigozhin, confirmed to the Telegraph on Monday that Medvedev had worked for his company, and said he “should be accused of trying to torture prisoners.”
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In an interview with Osechkin in December, which was published on YouTube, Medvedev denied any wrongdoing in Ukraine.
“I signed a contract with this group on the 6th of July 2022. I was appointed as the commander of the first group of the fourth group of the seventh army,” he recalled. “When the prisoners started arriving, Wagner’s situation really changed. He stopped treating us like people. We were just thrown into battle like cannon fodder. ”
Every week they sent more prisoners to us. We lost a lot of men. There were many casualties. We may lose 15 to 20 men in our group. As far as I know, most of them were buried in LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] and he said that he was not there. If you are found missing, there is no insurance payment for your family members. ”
He said that the prisoners “were shot dead for refusing to fight, or for disloyalty.”
“I fear for my life,” he said in December. “I have not committed any crime. I refused to take part in Yevgeny Prigozhin’s war.
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Osechkin told CNN on Monday that he began helping Medvedev after being approached by a friend in late November.
Prigozhin, he explained, ordered that all agreements be revised starting in November. When Medvedev refused to renew, he was beaten, Osechkin said.
“Andrei decided to leave Wagner,” Osechkin told CNN. After this, he was wanted by Wagner’s security forces and the Russian special forces. There was a threat to his life. ”
“He was afraid that he would be killed like Yevgeny Nuzhin – with a hammer. We, as human rights activists, decided to help him and protect his life.
Osechkin said that he helped Medvedev with food, clothes, and a phone.
“We are not trying to justify his actions based on his participation in the Wagner Group. But it must be understood that he decided to escape from the Wagner Group as a terrorist group that kills Russians and Ukrainians.”