Former Wagner commander; OSLO, Feb 1 (Reuters) – The former head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group. Who fled to Norway, told Reuters he wants to apologize for the conflict in Ukraine. Speak out for those responsible for atrocities in the conflict to be brought to justice.
Andrei Medvedev, who crossed the Russian-Norwegian border on January 13, said. He witnessed the killing and abuse of Russian prisoners brought to Ukraine to fight for Wagner.
Medvedev said he escaped across the Arctic border, climbing over barbed wire fences and evading border guard dogs. As he heard gunfire from guards across a forest and a frozen river that separates the two countries.
The 26-year-old man is now applying for asylum in Norway.
“Many people see me as a scoundrel, a criminal, a murderer,” Medvedev said in an interview. “First of all, I want to apologize again and again, and although I don’t know how it will be receive, I do apologize.
“I want to explain that I am not that person. Yes, I served with Wagner. There are some moments (in my story) that the people I’ve even been through don’t like, but nobody’s born smart.”
Former Wagner commander; Appearing calm and confident, Medvedev said. He wanted to share his experiences during the war to “punish the perpetrators of their crimes in Ukraine.”
“I decided to take a public stand against this, so that in some cases the perpetrators are punish. I try to do at least a little bit.”
Wagner is involve in a bloody uprising in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
In a separate report publish by Reuters last week. Convict men recruit by Wagner to fight in Ukraine were find in a cemetery in southern Russia.
Kripos, the Norwegian criminal police responsible for investigating war crimes, began questioning Medvedev about his experiences in Ukraine. He has witness status.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the claims.
Wagner’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, previously said. Medvedev worked for a Norwegian division of Wagner and “treated prisoners badly.”
“Be careful, it’s very dangerous,” said Prigozhin.
Wagner did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
FROM ORPHAN TO WAGNER
Medvedev was born in the Tomsk region of Siberia. He said that after the death of his mother. The disappearance of his father, he was place in an orphanage when he was about 12 years old.
He said he was draft into the Russian army in 2014 at the age of 18. Served in the 31st Airborne Division in Ulyanovsk.
“This was my first mission in Donbass,” Medvedev added without elaborating.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after the ouster of the Russian president in a revolution in Saydan, Ukraine, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Where Russian-backed separatists in Donbass. From Donetsk and Luhansk, tried to break away from Kyiv’s control to to solve the case.
The Medvedev said he had served several prison sentences, including one for robbery, and when he was last release from prison, he decide to join the Wagner group in July 2022.
Former Wagner commander said he was not recruit directly from prison, but decide to join because he knew he would likely be draft into the regular Russian army anyway.
He signed a four-month contract with a monthly salary of about 250,000 rubles ($3,575). He entered Ukraine on July 16, he said, and fought near Bahmut.
“It was bullshit. The roads leading to Artemovsk were litter with the corpses of our soldiers,” he said, using his native Russian name Bahmut. “The loss was great. … I saw many of my friends die.”
At Wagner, Medvedev led a platoon, received orders from a platoon commander, and organized combat missions. He said he saw “brave acts from both sides”.
Medvedev said he witness two civilians being shot dead in front of newly recruit prisoners.
“The scariest thing? Realizing that there are people who consider themselves your countrymen and can come and kill you at a moment’s notice or on someone’s order,” he said. “Your own people. That was probably the scariest part.”
Medvedev left Wagner at the end of his four-month contract, despite being told by his superiors that he should continue to serve.
When asked if he was not afraid of being shot for refusing to fight, Medvedev replied: “Somehow they forgot to instill in me the instinct of self-preservation when I grew up in an orphanage.” So not really.”
($1 = 69.9305 rubles)
Reports by Nerijus Adomaitis, Janis Laizans and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
He follows Reuters from Norway and likes to go to Svalbard in the Arctic, oil rigs in the North Sea and guess who will win the Nobel Peace Prize. Born in France, he has been with Reuters since 2010, has worked for The Guardian, Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera English, among others, and speaks four languages.