Ukraine: Military forces strike Wagner mercenaries
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A former commander of Russia’s brutal Wagner Group who recently fled to Norway has been arrested by police. Andrey Medvedev has been detained after what his lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, said was a “strong disagreement” between the former Wagner soldier and authorities over living conditions at the safe house where he had been living since he arrived in the country.
A Russian prisoners’ rights group, Gulagu.net, published a recording of a phone interview on Monday with Medvedev, in which he urged Norway to let him stay and testify against the private military group.
The Wagner Group has been involved in some of the key fighting in Ukraine – and are even tipped to rival Putin’s grip on the Kremlin due to their war successes compared with that of the Russian military. Frictions stirred recently when the group captured the strategically significant Soledar, only for the Russian Armed Forces to claim two days later that they had taken it themselves.
UK officials estimate the Wagner Group makes up 10 percent of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine.
26-year-old Medvedev is believed to be the first member of the group to defect to the West.
Gulagu.net claimed Medvedev had been told he faced deportation – but this was denied by Norwegian police.
Mr Risnes, put the risk of his being deported at “zero”, adding he had been detained due to “disagreement” about measures taken to ensure his safety.
He explained that Medvedev was staying at the safe house on a “voluntary basis”, and if he refused to be there, police would have to either let him go or detain him.
The lawyer added to the BBC that the move came after “police concluded his situation was very dangerous. This is what everyone wanted to avoid, but we are looking for solutions.”
Medvedev crossed the border into Norway on January 13, where he applied for asylum, claiming he had witnessed the summary killing of Wagner fighters accused by their own commanders of disobeying orders, sometimes in pairs.
He also said he was ready to tell everything he knew about the Wagner Group, its activities and its infamous leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Mr Prigozhin is tipped as the possible replacement for Vladimir Putin in the event of a coup against the Russian despot, and is currently wanted by the FBI for meddling in the 2016 US election.
Medvedev said in the phone interview with Gulagu.net, recorded today: “My goal in coming here was firstly of course to save my life and secondly to tell the truth to the people and the world,” adding that he wanted to “punish” Prigozhin for the deaths of those who died on his orders in Ukraine.
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The former soldier fears for his life if he is returned to Russia. Gulagu.net said Medvedev would face “brutal murder and death” for speaking out against Wagner.
The rights group added: “We do not whitewash Medvedev. He has done many bad things in his life. But he has seen the light, he has realized this, he is ready and willing to cooperate with the world, with the international investigation and with the authorities of Norway, he wants to live and testify.”
Mr Risnes told the BBC that it was “absolutely not true” that his client was facing deportation, but said there may have been a misunderstanding between Mr Medvedev and Norwegian police.
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