Wagner ex-commander sorry for fighting in Ukraine

Wagner ex-commander sorry for fighting in Ukraine


A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway told Reuters he wanted to apologize for the fighting in Ukraine and work to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Andrei Medvedev, who crossed the Russian-Norwegian border on January 13, said he witnessed Wagner’s murder and ill-treatment of Russian convicts who had been brought to Ukraine to fight for the group.

“Many consider me a scoundrel, a criminal, a murderer,” said the 26-year-old Medvedev in an interview. “First of all, I want to say sorry over and over again, and while I don’t know how it would be received, I want to say I’m sorry.

“Yes, I served at Wagner. There are some moments (in my history) that the people I’ve been through in the first place don’t like, but nobody’s born smart.”

Medvedev added that he decided to speak out “to help ensure that the perpetrators are punished in certain cases, and I will try to do my part, at least a little.”

He cited an incident in which he said he witnessed two people who did not want to fight being shot in front of newly released convicts who had been admitted to Wagner.

When asked about other incidents he witnessed, he said he could not comment at this time due to ongoing war crimes investigations by the Norwegian police.

Reuters could not immediately verify his claims.

Kripos, Norway’s national criminal police service responsible for investigating war crimes, has started questioning Medvedev about his experiences in Ukraine.

He has witness status and is not suspected of anything other than illegal border crossing. Medvedev said he had nothing to hide from the police, adding: “I didn’t commit any crimes, I was just a fighter.”

The Wagner group said Medvedev worked in one of Wagner’s “Norwegian units” and “mistreated detainees.”

“Be careful, he’s very dangerous,” the group said in an emailed statement to Reuters, echoing previous comments about Medvedev by its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wagner troops are engaged in a bloody battle of attrition against Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

At Wagner, Medvedev said he led a squad, took orders from a platoon commander, and planned combat missions. He said he saw “brave acts from both sides”.

Medvedev said he was afraid he could be executed at any moment by someone of his own side.

“The scariest thing? To realize that there are people who consider themselves your countrymen and who could come and kill you instantly or on someone’s orders,” he said. “Your own people. That was probably the scariest thing.”

Medvedev left Wagner at the end of his four-month contract, although his superiors told him he needed to serve longer, he said.

Medvedev said he was fleeing Russia over the Arctic border last month, climbing through barbed wire fences and dodging a border patrol with dogs when he heard Russian guards firing shots as he ran through a forest and across the frozen river carrying the two separates countries.


Medvedev was born in the Tomsk region of Siberia. He said he was placed in an orphanage when he was about 12 after the death of his mother and the disappearance of his father.

He said he was drafted into the Russian military in 2014 at the age of 18 and served with the 31st Airborne Brigade in Ulyanovsk.

“It was my first mission in Donbass,” added Medvedev, without giving any further details.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was ousted in Ukraine’s Maidan revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, while Russian-backed separatists in Donbass — made up of Donetsk and Luhansk — sought to break away from Kiev’s control .

Medvedev said he had served several prison sentences, including one for robbery, and the last time he got out of prison, he decided to join the Wagner group in July 2022.

Medvedev said he was not recruited directly from prison but decided to join because he realized he would likely be mobilized in the regular Russian armed forces anyway.

He signed a four-month contract for a monthly salary of around 250,000 rubles ($3,575). He entered Ukraine on July 16, he said, and fought near Bakhmut.

“It was fucked up. The roads to Artemovsk were littered with the bodies of our soldiers,” he said, using the Russian place name for Bakhmut. “The losses were heavy. … I saw many friends die.”

A special report published by Reuters last week found a cemetery in southern Russia, a burial ground for men who were convicts recruited by Wagner to fight in Ukraine.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, Janis Laizans and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo, editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Leslie Adler and Frances Kerry)

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