Paramilitary Leader Flees Russia


Andrei Medvedev | Image by The Moscow Times

A former commander with the Russian parliamentary Wagner Group, said to carry out direct orders from the Kremlin while fighting in Ukraine, has deserted and claimed asylum in Norway.

Andrei Medvedev, 26, crossed the border into Norway from Russia last Friday, where border guards detained him, The New York Times (NYT) reported. He is now seeking asylum in Norway.

Medvedev said that he had deserted the Wagner Group in November and contacted human rights activists for help once back in Russia.

Brynjulf Risnes, Medvedev’s lawyer, said he believes his client brought evidence of human rights abuses with him into Norway, intending to share it with groups investigating accusations against Russian forces in Ukraine.

According to Risnes, Medvedev is willing to cooperate with international investigators.

The Wagner Group bolsters Russian forces in numerous territories in Ukraine. Medvedev claims he was a high-ranking commander in that group.

Through this position, he alleges he saw human rights abuses as well as war crimes. He claims even fighters within the Wagner Group were summarily executed if they tried to leave or were accused of cowardice. He also alleges that prisoner units were sent on suicide missions by Wagner’s commanders, leading to a staggering death toll.

There is no independent verification of some of Medvedev’s claims, particularly involving the treatment of enlisted prisoners.

Medvedev was raised in a Siberian orphanage and had spent at least four years in prison for robbery before joining Wagner in July. As the NYT reported, two people familiar with the young man were able to confirm that he had served in the paramilitary group, but they were unable to provide any additional information.

According to individuals in Russia and Ukraine who met Medvedev at the time, prior to his recent enlistment, he had engaged in two other military operations in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine in an unknown capacity in 2015 and 2020.

Wagner Group’s private military forces and Ukraine’s military forces have made contradictory claims in the bloody, months-long conflict in the eastern Donetsk region, which has gotten worse in recent days in Soledar, as The Dallas Express reported.

Russian and Ukrainian officials confirmed intense fighting on Monday in the hotly contested city of Bakhmut, located just over 10 miles from Soledar.

The Wagner Group has reportedly started hiring recently released prisoners, such as Medvedev, into its ranks to bulk up the Russian offensive.

According to his lawyer Risnes, Norway’s treatment of Medvedev’s request for asylum — the first the country has seen and generally a rare occurrence — will likely become a reference case for how other countries might manage defecting Russian soldiers at their borders in the future.

We welcome and appreciate comments on The Dallas Express as part of a healthy dialogue. We do ask that you be kind. Kind to each other and to everyone else in your comments. For more information, please refer to our Complete Comment Moderation Policy.

Subscribe to Comments
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments