Wagner Group Defector Detained in Norway

Lawyer says there was 'friction' over tight security around Andrei Medvedev
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2023 7:11 AM CST
Updated Jan 23, 2023 6:45 PM CST
Fearing the Sledgehammer, a Putin Fighter Defects
A bus drives by a vandalized mural depicting the logo of Russia's Wagner Group with "No War" added on a wall in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.   (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
UPDATE Jan 23, 2023 6:45 PM CST

The first known member of the Wagner Group to defect to the West has been arrested in Norway, but police have denied that Andrei Medvedev will be deported back to Russia. A lawyer for the 26-year-old tells the BBC that Medvedev, who crossed into Norway's far north earlier this month and had been staying at a safe house, was detained under immigration laws after "police concluded his situation was very dangerous." "This is what everyone wanted to avoid, but we are looking for solutions," Brynjulf Risnes says. Risnes tells Reuters that disagreements over security measures led to "friction." The lawyer says the former commander, who has said he is willing to testify about war crimes committed by the mercenary group, is still being treated as a witness, not a criminal.

Jan 17, 2023 7:11 AM CST

In November, a horrifying story emerged about a Russian paramilitary fighter who was executed by sledgehammer after deciding he didn't want to fight in Ukraine anymore. Now, another fighter from the same pro-Putin paramilitary outfit—the Wagner Group—has crossed the border into Norway in hopes of avoiding the same fate, reports CNN. The dramatic escape of Andrei Medvedev, 26, is the first known instance of a Wagner member fleeing to the West to escape the war, per the Financial Times. The outfit is generally described as Vladimir Putin's "off-the-books troops," and its members are believed to account for roughly 10% of the Russian force in Ukraine, per CNN.

“We were just thrown to fight like cannon fodder,” Medvedev told the leader of the human rights group Gulagu.net in an interview. Norway has confirmed that Medvedev has sought asylum, but it is not elaborating beyond that, per the AP. Medvedev's attorney, Brynjulf Risnes, tells the BBC that his client has evidence of war crimes perpetrated by Russian forces and plans to share it with investigators. In his interview, Medvedev said he decided to leave when Wagner extended his contract indefinitely. He recounted how he fled over the icy Pasvik River while being fired at by Russians and chased by dogs, per the Financial Times. He then sought help at the first Norwegian house he encountered across the border. (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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