A former commander of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, who recently fled to Norway, has been arrested by police in the country.
Andrei Medvedev, 26, is believed to be the first member of the paramilitary organization to defect to the West.
He says he fears for his life after his January 13 escape after being shocked by the beatings and murders of other recruits.
Gulagu.net, a Russian prisoner’s rights group, published an interview in which Medvedev claimed to have heard he could be sent back to Russia.
When asked about the allegation, a spokesman for the Norwegian police said “that’s not correct”, without elaborating.
His Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, assessed the risk of deportation as “zero”, adding that he had been imprisoned for “disagreement” over measures to ensure his safety.
In the phone interview, Medvedev urged Norway to let him stay and testify against Wagner, who fought Ukrainian forces in some of the war’s most brutal battles.
“My purpose in coming here was, of course, first of all to save my life and secondly to tell the truth to the people and the world,” he said in the phone interview with Gulagu.net taped on Monday .
He said he also wanted to “punish” Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the deaths of people who died on his orders in Ukraine.
Gulagu.net said Medvedev would face “brutal murder and death” for speaking out against the group if sent back to Russia.
“We do not approve of Medvedev. He’s done a lot of bad things in his life.”
“But he has seen the light, he has seen that, he is ready and willing to cooperate with the world, with the international investigation and with the authorities of Norway, he wants to live and testify.”
Medvedev is an orphan who joined the Russian army and spent time in prison before joining Wagner last July on a four-month contract that he says the group had repeatedly extended without his approval.
He said he crossed the snowy Arctic Circle border into Norway, a NATO member, from Russia after climbing through barbed wire fences and evading a border patrol with dogs.
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