On January 13, Wagner commander Andrei Medvedev fled to Norway to escape the mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin and to unpack the brutal events within the group. Now he tells how Wagner fought in the Ukraine and how men in his own ranks were murdered.
Andrei Medvedev fought for four months as commander of the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine. Already on the sixth day he noticed that he no longer wanted to continue, he now tells the US news site “CNN” from his exile in the Norwegian capital Oslo.
Medvedev managed to flee to Norway for months, faced with the constant threat of being captured or killed by Russian authorities. Medvedev’s knowledge of what is happening within the mercenary group makes him a target for Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, whom he calls a “devil”.
With his story he wants to contribute to bringing Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prigozhin to justice. “Sooner or later propaganda in Russia will stop working, the people will rise up and all our leaders will be up for grabs and a new leader will emerge,” the Russian said confidently.
Shortly after his arrival in Norway, Medvedev announced in a video published on Gulagu.net that he wanted to unpack about the Wagner Group, its leadership and the numerous human rights violations and war crimes. In an interview with “CNN”, Medvedev now tells of the brutality that made him flee. His narratives have not been independently verified.
The Wagner mercenaries would fight in Ukraine without a strategy, often being sent into battle with absolutely no instructions, in which most of them would be killed. “We only got the position of the opponent. There were no orders as to how we should behave,” says Medvedev. So the tens of thousands of mercenaries, most of them recruited from prisons, spontaneously planned how to proceed.
“That was our problem,” said the former commander about the lack of leadership. Medvedev says his men were courageous. “I saw courage on both sides, on the Ukrainian side, and also on our boys. I just want them to know that,” he says in the interview, which the CNN writers describe as highly emotional.
According to his own statements, the 26-year-old has been fighting since July 2022 near the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, which is considered one of the most heavily fought-over cities on the front. According to Ukrainian sources, almost only Wagner men are fighting the Ukrainians in Bakhmut. They have been trying to take the city for months in a grueling battle. But so far there has been no success, and the Russian losses are considered extremely high. Between late November and early December alone, more than 1,000 Wagner mercenaries died near Bachmut, according to an anonymous US official in early January.
Medvedev says he joined the group voluntarily after having previously served in the military. He did not want to comment specifically on his own combat operations. All he says is that he reported directly to the group’s founders, Prigozhin and Dmitri Urtikin. Prigozhin had previously confirmed that Medvedev had served in his company and said he “should be prosecuted for attempting to mistreat prisoners”.
Initially, Medvedev had ten men under his command. But the more fighters were killed, the more were added. “I couldn’t count how many there were. It was always different. Bodies, more prisoners, more bodies, more prisoners,” Medvedev said of the fate of his mercenaries. The fallen men were simply reported as missing.
Those who tried to leave the group were brutally killed. “They rounded up those who didn’t want to fight and shot them in front of the newcomers,” he says. Two were thrown directly into the trenches dug by the trainees. In November 2022, a video went viral purporting to show Wagner defector Yevgeny Nushin being murdered with a sledgehammer on camera. Medvedev has become “bolder and more determined to go,” he told CNN.
Medvedev was released from a detention center last week after his arrest in Norway. According to media reports, he crossed the border at the beginning of January and applied for asylum in Norway. According to his Norwegian lawyer, Medvedev was detained in Oslo on charges of illegal entry. In a video, Medvedev said he would be brutally killed if sent back to Russia. During his daring escape, he evaded arrest “at least ten times,” he told CNN. Wearing white camouflage clothing, he crossed the Norwegian border at Skrøytnes in the Pasvikdalen valley across a frozen lake.
The Wagner Group is owned by oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as “Putin’s cook” because of his good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin recruited tens of thousands of prisoners from Russian prisons for the war against Ukraine. He promised the prisoners that they would be released after the end of their contract, but at the same time threatened summary executions if they tried to escape.