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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Russian Wagner defector ‘in secret location’

A young Russian man who fled over the border to Northern Norway late last week has officially filed for asylum and is now living in what’s been described as “a secret location,” likely in the Oslo area. His offer to testify against Russia’s mercenary group called Wagner has raised concerns about his security, also after Wagner claimed the defector is himself suspected of abusing prisoners of war.

The drama around Andrei Medvedev, who ran across the frozen Pasvik River separating Norway and Russia in the far north, kept rising on Monday. He claims he left the Wagner group of mercenaries, which is fighting for Russia in its war against Ukraine, after witnessing alleged war crimes.

Medvedev claims Wagner deserters were shot or even beaten to death. He was initially believed to have left the group when his contract expired, but now the former Wagner commander for a group of around 10 mercenaries claims he fled, eventually made it back to Russia, north to Murmansk and then west to Nikel, where he crossed into Norway’s Pasvik region in the middle of the night last Friday.

He’s been charged with illegally crossing the border but was quickly flown south to Oslo where he’s been appointed a lawyer and faces an investigation into his background, his identity and record as a mercenary. His defense attorney Brynjulf Risnes denied a claim by Wagner to newspaper Aftenposten on Monday that Medvedev holds Norwegian citizenship, headed a unit with Norwegian members and abused prisoners of war.

“He definitely does not have Norwegian citizenship nor any earlier ties to Norway,” Risnes told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Monday evening. “He will be checked out in all possible ways. We must check whether what he says is true. Many may view (his defection to Norway) as a provocation. Norwegian authorities will hold all possibilities open. This case is full of dilemmas.”

NewsinEnglish.no staff

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