NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 18:40
A Norwegian police unit investigating war crimes in Ukraine is talking to a Russian who fled to Norway last week and applied for political asylum. Andrei Medvedev is said to have been a member of the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary army fighting in Ukraine.
“He says he was a member of the Wagner Group and it is important to get more information about this period,” said a spokesman for the Norwegian police. Medvedev is given witness status.
The 26-year-old Russian says his contract with Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary army was extended indefinitely in November without his consent. He left Wagner anyway, saying he witnessed the killing of captured Russian deserters by Wagner’s internal security service.
Back in Russia, he noticed that the security service was looking for him. He went into hiding and through a friend came into contact with the Russian human rights group Gulagu, which operates from France.
Shot by Russian border guards
Last month he said in a conversation with this group that he was afraid that the same thing would happen to him as a deserter who defected to Ukraine. He would have been in the same unit as him. In November, a video surfaced showing the man being beaten to death with a hammer. Video of the execution appeared on a Telegram channel believed to have ties to the Wagner group.
Gulagu helped Medvedev escape. After two attempts to go to Finland, he crossed the border in the night from Thursday to Friday. He says he was shot at by Russian border guards as he fled through a forest and over ice.
Gulagu founder Vladimir Ozechkin tells the BBC that Medvedev spent a short time in prison after serving in the Russian army, possibly for theft. Lured by the prospect of a stable income, he signed with the Wagner Group last year to be sent to Ukraine.
Wagner mercenaries reportedly earn around 9,250 euros per month. Medvedev signed for a four-month term, from July 6 to November 6. Because he had a military background, he immediately became commander of a unit that was stationed in the Donbas.
He had thirty to forty men under him a week. Most were ex-prisoners recruited by the Wagner Group to fill the shortages at the front.
Wagner boss Prigozhin has acknowledged that Medvedev served in his army. That would have been in a Norwegian unit, but that unit does not exist as far as we know. According to Prigozhin, Medvedev himself mistreated prisoners. “Be careful, he’s dangerous,” he said in response to the news.
Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer told the BBC that his client has witnessed many war crimes. He would have taken evidence of this to share with agencies that are investigating it.
In addition, it is expected that Medvedev can provide Western intelligence services with valuable information about the Wagner Group. It was founded in 2014 and is active in Syria, Libya, Mali and since last year also in Ukraine. Estimates of the presence of Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine run up to 10 percent of the total number of Russian military personnel.
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