the gray area that persists around Andrei Medvedev

OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP Visitors wearing military camouflage stand at the entrance of the ‘Wagner PMC Center’, associated with Wagner private military group (PMC) founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block on National Unity Day, in Saint Petersburg, November 4, 2022. (Photo by Olga MALTSEVA/AFP)

OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP

“Wagner deserter”: the surviving gray area around Andrei Medvedev (Photo of Wagner’s Russian headquarters in Saint-Petersburg)

WAR IN UKRAINE – Several mysteries persist around Andreï Medvedev, a former Wagner mercenary, who leaves the war to take refuge in Norway. After escaping under epic conditions, the soldier is now a valuable witness who can shed light on the brutality of Russian paramilitary groups in Ukraine and support the case against Moscow.

In a video released this weekend by the NGO Gulagu.net, the square-faced, cropped-haired Russian claims to have fought in Ukraine as the head of a section of ten men at Wagner. The sulfur group he says he left when his four-month contract was extended against his will in November. He hid for two months in Russia before leaving the country.

Arrested briefly upon arrival in Norway where he sought asylum, Andrei Medvedev is being or will be heard by the authorities, both by immigration authorities and by the criminal brigade (Kripos) taking part in an international investigation. Ukraine. “He himself said that he was a member of the Wagner group and it would be interesting for Kripos to get more information about this period”police said on Tuesday.

His Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf​​​Risnes, told AFP his client was “ready to speak about his experience in the Wagner group to people investigating war crimes”. But the gray area remains around this character.

Wagner assures that Medvedev is Norwegian and ” very dangerous »

Starting with his arrival on the territory of Norway. Under bullets, he said, by Russian guards who were chasing him with dogs, Andrei Medvedev clandestinely crossed last week the Pasvik, the currently frozen river that marks the Russian-Norwegian border in the Far North. However, many experts believe that the former mercenary cannot cross the heavily fortified border without assistance.

Then, his career left a few questions, especially because the Wagner Group tried to discredit him on Telegram, as mentioned World. Group that answers questions from Norwegian newspapers Aftenpostenconfirm that Andreï Medvedev is Norwegian, and “ very dangerous.” As a reminder, Wagner recruited extensively from Russian prisons to fight in Ukraine.

“Indeed, Andrei Medvedev fought in Nidhögg, Wagner’s Norwegian battalion, because he was a Norwegian by nationality, but he should have been prosecuted for trying to abuse prisoners. Detailed documents are available from the Wagner security department and will be submitted to the Russian authorities. Until now, he is on the wanted list. Be careful, it’s very dangerous. »convinced Wagner.

However, according to lawyer Andrei Medvedev, who responded to these remarks, his client “absolutely have no Norwegian citizenship or prior connection to Norway as far as I know”.

Compromising USB key

Finally, there is the question of what deserters can reveal. The Norwegian police criminal brigade (Kripos), which is involved in an international investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, began questioning him last Saturday. He was cooperative, according to Brynjulf ​​​​Risnes.

“He is an interesting individual especially as a direct witness in the Wagner group (…), including in the possible post-war trials for atrocities committed in Ukraine”said Tor Bukkvoll, a researcher at the Norwegian Defense Research Institute. “He’s probably in Bakhmout”a city in eastern Ukraine that Russian troops have been trying to take for months, “and she can tell things from within that no one else can”he told AFP.

In an interview with the website Insiders in December, Andrei Medvedev said he was aware of ten executions by Wagner of mercenaries who refused to return to battle. He also explained that he had a video showing the killing of two of them and called for publication in case something bad happened to him. He himself would have under his command Evguéni Nouzhin, a man accused of surrendering to Ukrainian troops and killed with a sledgehammer on his return to Russian ranks.

AFP has not been able to independently confirm the veracity of his statements.

an informant” at a relatively low organizational level.

Andreï Medvedev admits to having some USB keys when he fled to Norway. “What he said is interesting because we don’t have a lot of direct testimony from Wagner soldiers, but there are two nuances”decrypt Tor Bukkvoll.

“Firstly, Wagner’s brutality has been well known for a long time, even before the conflict in Ukraine, such as in Syria where the group killed prisoners”researcher comments. “Dan Medvedev appears to be at a fairly low organizational level and therefore it is unlikely that he will reveal anything about what is happening at a higher level”.

The exact articulation of Wagner, founded in 2014, with the Russian army remains a subject of question, with many observers saying they see tensions between the two powers against a backdrop of political ambitions attributed to the leader of this paramilitary group, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. .

In any case, Andrei Medvedev’s lawyer assures that the latter has with him evidence of war crimes committed in Ukraine and that he intends to share this information with the group investigating the accusations.

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