A former fighter who says he fled from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in July is seeking asylum in Norway, authorities say.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and Andrey Medvedev’s lawyer confirmed on Monday that the 26-year-old was seeking protection in the Nordic nation, which shares a 96km (122-mile) land border with Russia.
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Medvedev, an orphan who joined the Russian army and served time in prison before joining the Wagner Group, said he left after witnessing Wagner deserters being killed.
In a filmed interview released on Monday by Gulagu.net, the Russian rights group that helped Medvedev escape, he said: “I am afraid of dying in agony.”
Norwegian police were notified of Medvedev’s crossing late on Thursday after Russian border guards found traces in the snow, indicating his journey.
Identified at the time only as a foreigner, Medvedev was detained by Norwegian border guards, police said.
In September, a video of a man who resembled the Wagner Group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, appeared to offer prisoners contracts to fight in the war in Ukraine.
In it, he is seen saying: “If you arrive in Ukraine and decide it’s not for you, we will regard it as desertion and will shoot you. Any questions, guys?”
In the Gulagu interview, Medvedev says he grew disaffected after Wagner repeatedly extended his contract without his consent and after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners who were brought to fight.
In November, he said, he saw a video that appeared to show a man who was part of his unit executed with a sledgehammer.
A statement by the Wagner Group did not address Medvedev’s battlefield claims, but Prigozhin said in a post on the Telegram messaging app that Medvedev had worked in the Norwegian unit of the group and had “mistreated prisoners”.
The shadowy mercenary group has taken a leading role in the invasion of Ukraine.
Prigozhin’s fighters recently announced the capture of the eastern town of Soledar ahead of the Russian defence ministry. Its claim, which Ukraine denies, is seen as an apparent bid to extend Wagner’s clout in the Kremlin.
Before the war, Wagner’s soldiers for hire were fighting internationally, reportedly in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic and other countries.