- Former Wagner commander escaped Russia to Norway
- 26-year-old took half within the combating close to Bakhmut
- Says he was afraid of being executed by personal facet
- Says he needs to testify about crimes in Ukraine
OSLO, Feb 1 (Reuters) – A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway instructed Reuters he wished to apologise for combating in Ukraine and was talking out to convey the perpetrators of crimes to justice.
Andrei Medvedev, who crossed the Russian-Norwegian border on Jan. 13, mentioned he witnessed the killing and mistreatment by Wagner of Russian convicts taken to Ukraine to struggle for the group.
“Many take into account me to be a scoundrel, a prison, a assassin,” Medvedev, 26, mentioned in an interview. “To start with, repeatedly, and once more, I wish to apologise, and though I do not understand how it might be obtained, I wish to say I am sorry.
“Sure, I served in Wagner. There are some moments (in my story) that folks do not like, that I joined them in any respect, however no person is born good.”
Medvedev added he had determined to talk out “to assist to make sure that perpetrators are punished in sure instances, and I’ll attempt to make my contribution, a minimum of a small bit”.
He cited one incident wherein he mentioned he witnessed two individuals who didn’t wish to struggle being shot lifeless in entrance of newly launched convicts who had been enrolled in Wagner.
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Requested about different incidents he witnessed, he mentioned he couldn’t touch upon them at this stage as a Norwegian police investigation about warfare crimes was ongoing.
Reuters was not instantly in a position to confirm his claims.
Kripos, Norway’s nationwide prison police service, which has duty for investigating warfare crimes, has begun questioning Medvedev about his experiences in Ukraine.
He has a standing as a witness and isn’t suspected of something aside from the unlawful border crossing. Medvedev mentioned he had nothing to cover from the police, including “I didn’t commit any crimes, I used to be only a combatant”.
The Wagner group mentioned Medvedev had labored in a “Norwegian unit” of Wagner and had “mistreated prisoners”.
“Watch out, he is very harmful,” the group mentioned in an emailed assertion to Reuters, reiterating earlier feedback made by its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a detailed ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, about Medvedev.
Wagner forces have been locked in a bloody battle of attrition towards Ukrainian forces in Ukraine’s japanese Donetsk area.
At Wagner, Medvedev mentioned he led a squad, taking orders from a platoon commander and planning fight missions. He mentioned he noticed “acts of braveness from either side”.
Medvedev mentioned he was scared that he may very well be executed by somebody on his personal facet at any time.
“The scariest factor? To understand that there are individuals who take into account themselves to be your compatriots, and who might come and kill you immediately, or on somebody’s orders,” he mentioned. “Your personal individuals. That in all probability was the scariest factor.”
Medvedev left Wagner on the finish of his four-month contract, though his superiors instructed him he needed to serve longer, he mentioned.
Medvedev mentioned he fled Russia final month over the Arctic border, climbing by way of barbed-wire fences and evading a border patrol with canine, listening to Russian guards firing pictures as he ran by way of a forest and over the frozen river that separates the 2 nations.
FROM ORPHAN TO JOINING WAGNER
Medvedev was born within the area of Tomsk in Siberia. He mentioned he was positioned in an orphanage when he was round age 12, after the loss of life of his mom and the disappearance of his father.
He mentioned he was drafted within the Russian navy in 2014, aged 18, and served with the Ulyanovsk-based thirty first Airborne Brigade.
“That was my first deployment in Donbas,” Medvedev added, declining to present extra particulars.
The battle in japanese Ukraine started in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was toppled in Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, whereas Russian-backed separatists within the Donbas – comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk – sought to interrupt away from Kyiv’s management.
Medvedev mentioned he had served a number of jail phrases, together with one for a theft, and when he got here out of jail the final time, he determined to hitch the Wagner group, in July 2022.
Medvedev mentioned he hadn’t been recruited straight out of the jail, however determined to hitch as a result of he realised he would doubtless be mobilised within the common Russian armed forces anyway.
He signed a four-month contract for a month-to-month wage of some 250,000 roubles ($3,575). He crossed into Ukraine on July 16, he mentioned, and fought close to Bakhmut.
“It was fucked up. The roads to Artemovsk had been suffering from the corpses of our troopers,” he mentioned, utilizing the Russian place identify for Bakhmut. “The losses had been heavy. … I noticed many buddies die.”
A particular report printed by Reuters final week discovered a graveyard in southern Russia, burial website for males who had been convicts who had been recruited by Wagner to struggle in Ukraine.
($1 = 69.9305 roubles)
Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, Janis Laizans and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo
Enhancing by Rosalba O’Brien, Leslie Adler and Frances Kerry
Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.