Wagner military group defector in Norway released by police
Norwegian police said Wednesday they had released a man claiming to be a former member of Russian mercenary group Wagner, who fled to Norway nearly a fortnight ago.
Andrei Medvedev, 26, crossed the Russian-Norwegian border in the country's far north in the early hours of January 13th and sought asylum in the Scandinavian country.
He was arrested on Sunday for refusing to follow restrictions imposed by police since his arrival in the country, according to his lawyer.
On Wednesday, immigration police released Medvedev from the Trandum immigration detention centre "on condition that he stays in a specific place," Jon Andreas Johansen, a police official in charge of immigration affairs, told AFP in an email.
Medvedev claims to have fought in Ukraine as a member of Wagner for four months before deserting in November, when the paramilitary organisation led by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin allegedly extended his contract against his will.
A potentially valuable witness in shedding light on the group's reported brutality in Ukraine, Medvedev -- who claims to have witnessed executions of other members for refusing to fight -- has been questioned by Norwegian authorities since arriving in the country.
Many questions remain about Medvedev's past and the circumstances of his escape, with some experts saying he could not have crossed the heavily guarded border without assistance.
He claims to have crossed the frozen Pasvik river that marks part of the Russian-Norwegian border while being chased by attack dogs and Russian
border guards, who fired at him. AFP has not been able to independently confirm his account of events.
Since his arrival in Norway, Medvedev has been interviewed as a "witness" by Norway's Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos), which is part of the international investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.
"He said earlier that he had been a member of the Wagner group, and it is interesting for Kripos to gather more information about this period," the organisation said. Both police and his lawyer have ruled out deportation to Russia.
In an interview with the rights group Gulagu.net, the ex-mercenary said this week that he feared for his life if he were to be sent back to his country.