Ex-Wagner commander who fled to Norway wants to return to Russia despite risk of death

·2 min read
Andrei Medvedev, a former commander in Russia's Wagner mercenary group - Janis Laizans/REUTERS
Andrei Medvedev, a former commander in Russia's Wagner mercenary group - Janis Laizans/REUTERS

A former commander of Russia's Wagner group who sought asylum in Norway said on Wednesday that he wanted to return to Russia even though he believed this could pose a risk to his life.

Andrei Medvedev, who has previously spoken about his time fighting in Ukraine, said in one of several videos posted on YouTube that he had decided he wanted to return to his home country.

The 26-year-old said he felt like "some kind of a boy in a big game" that he no longer wanted to be part of.

"Recently, I've decided that I'm ready to go back to the Russian Federation. I've contacted the Russian embassy in Oslo for help to facilitate my return," Mr Medvedev said in one of five short videos, adding that he made this decision on his own.

'This is my own decision'

He escaped Russia via its Arctic border with Norway in January. He said he crossed through barbed-wire fences and evaded a border patrol with dogs, hearing Russian guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and over a frozen river.

His story made headlines around the world as a rare example of someone defecting to a Western country while claiming to have fought for the Wagner mercenary group in Ukraine.

At the time, Mr Medvedev said he was seeking asylum in Norway because he feared for his life after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners recruited by the mercenary group to fight in Ukraine.

In a video published on Wednesday, he said that he would hand in documents "tomorrow" that he believed would help facilitate his return.

Andrei Medvedev in Oslo court - NTB/REUTERS
Andrei Medvedev in Oslo court - NTB/REUTERS

Mr Medvedev said: "I hoped that I could find peace and calm here, that I could leave all the politics, the war, the army behind, but somehow I couldn't manage.

"We shall see what would happen in Russia. If they kill me, OK. If they don't, thanks a lot. If I live, even more thanks."

He was convicted in April of being involved in a bar fight in Oslo and of carrying an air gun. At the time, he said he was looking to the future, studying Norwegian and hoping to get asylum.