Vladimir Putin dealt major blow as key commander defects

After deserting the mercenary group, a former leader with the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group has requested refuge in Norway.

Last Friday, Andrey Medvedev, 26, a former leader with the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group, crossed into Norway and was apprehended by border guards.

According to his attorney Brynjulf Risnes, he is presently being detained in the Oslo region and is accused of entering Norway illegally. 

After witnessing war atrocities in Ukraine, according to Mr. Risnes, his client fled Wagner.

The 198 km (123 miles) long border between Norway and Russia was crossed by a Russian man, according to the Norwegian Border Guard, who verified the incident to the BBC but declined to elaborate further due to “reasons of security and privacy.”

The police chief of staff in the Norwegian district of Finnmark, Tarjei Sirma-Tellefsen, reported that a guy had been detained by a border patrol and claimed to have requested asylum.

However, the Russian human rights organisation Gulagu.net, which assisted Mr. Medvedev in leaving the country, verified his identification. 

He is thought to be the first member of the group to defect to the West by escape.

The creator of Gulagu.net, Vladimir Osechkin, told the BBC that Dmitry Medvedev had signed up for a four-month contract with the paramilitary organisation in July 2022, but had left after seeing a number of war crimes and human rights violations while fighting in Ukraine.

He said that Mr. Medvedev was once a member of the Russian army and that, between 2017 and 2018, he was imprisoned before joining the Wagner Group.

According to a video Mr. Medvedev appeared in on Gulagu.net’s social media networks, he left Ukraine in November after learning that the organisation planned to keep his contract permanently.

He crossed into Norway last week after spending two months underground in Russia.

According to UK sources, the Wagner Group represents 10% of Russia’s forces in Ukraine and was instrumental in Moscow’s forces capturing the town of Soledar in the eastern Donbas last week.

It has enlisted thousands of soldiers from Russian jails.

In exchange for serving in Ukraine for six months, recruits will receive their freedom, according to Mr. Prigozhin, a former prisoner himself.

There weren’t many mercenaries there before the invasion of Ukraine. 

The majority were thought to be seasoned veterans of the military, some coming from Russia’s finest battalions and special operations.

READ MORE: China’s population falls for the first time in 60 years