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Ex-Wagner commander witnessed comrades shot for fleeing, says his Norwegian lawyer

2023-01-26T20:19:38Z

Cadets of a military academy fire a salute during the funeral of Dmitry Menshikov, a mercenary for the private Russian military company Wagner Group, killed during the military conflict in Ukraine, in the Alley of Heroes at a cemetery in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 24, 2022. REUTERS/Igor Russak/File Photo

A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway has spoken about how he witnessed some of his comrades being shot as they were trying to flee from the frontline in Ukraine, his Norwegian lawyer told Reuters.

Andrei Medvedev, who fled from Russia by crossing the Russian-Norwegian border on Jan. 13, has said he fears for his life after witnessing what he said was the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners taken to Ukraine to fight for Wagner.

Medvedev is living in a secret location in the Oslo area after he was released from detention on Wednesday following a “disagreement” with the police about measures taken to ensure his safety.

His lawyer Brynjulf Risnes told Reuters that Medvedev had seen some “incredibly horrible” situations while he was fighting with Wagner last autumn.

He had witnessed “the shooting of his comrades while he was watching because they tried to flee,” Risnes said in an interview, citing Medvedev.

The Russian was “slowly coming to terms with what’s happening”, his lawyer said.

“His life has been chaotic and dangerous and very stressful for a very long time,” Risnes said, “particularly, of course, during the autumn when he was in Ukraine with the Wagner group.”

“But of course, his life hasn’t been easy before that either.”

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed, millions uprooted and cities reduced to rubble since Russian forces invaded Ukraine 11 months ago.

Kripos, Norway’s national criminal police service, which has responsibility for investigating war crimes, has begun questioning him about his experiences in Ukraine and would continue to do so, Risnes said.

Kripos is part of a project to investigate war crimes in Ukraine conducted by the International Criminal Court.

Other groups like the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Clooney Foundation were also interested in talking to Medvedev, his lawyer said.

“One main thing will be to coordinate so we don’t have to ask all the questions five or ten times,” Risnes said.