A former high-ranking member of the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group seeking asylum in Norway is in police custody on suspicion of entering the Scandinavian country illegally, authorities said on Monday.
“Russian Andrey Medvedev has been arrested under the Immigration Act and it is being assessed whether he should be produced for detention,” Jon Andreas Johansen of Norwegian immigration police told The Associated Press. Norway's VG newspaper said detaining him isn't a punishment, but a security measure.
Brynjulf Risnes, Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer, said that the police decided to apprehend Medvedev on Sunday evening after a 'strong disagreement' with the former Wagner soldier over living conditions at the safe house where he had been living since he arrived in Norway, The Guardian reported quoting the lawyer. Medvedev says he fears he would be deported to Russia.
Medvedev, who says he fears for his life, is believed to have illegally entered Norway after crossing the country's 198-kilometre-long (123-mile) border with Russia earlier this month.
In a video posted by the Russian dissident group Gulagu.net, Medvedev said he came under Russian gunfire before crossing into the Scandinavian country. Norwegian police said they were notified by Russian border guards about tracks in the snow indicating that someone may have crossed the border illegally.
Norway's National Criminal Investigation Service, which takes part in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine said it's questioning Medvedev who "has the status of a witness.”
Medvedev, who has been on the run since he defected from the Wagner Group, has reportedly told Gulagu.net that he is ready to tell everything he knows about the shady paramilitary group and its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Medvedev said he left the Wagner Group after his contract was extended beyond the July-November timeline without his consent. He said he is willing to testify about any war crimes he witnessed and denied participating in any.
The Wagner Group, which has spearheaded attacks against Ukrainian forces, includes a large number of convicts recruited from Russian prisons. The group has become increasingly influential in Africa.
(With PTI inputs.)