23rd September 2023 – (Oslo) Norwegian police have apprehended a former commander of the Wagner mercenary group on allegations of attempting to illegally cross the border back into Russia after seeking asylum in Norway earlier this year, according to the man’s lawyer. Andrei Medvedev, who fled Russia in January via the Arctic border with Norway, claimed to have evaded Russian guards who fired shots at him. Medvedev has publicly discussed his time fighting in Ukraine as part of the Wagner group.
Late on Friday, the police released a statement confirming the arrest of a man in his 20s for attempting to illegally cross the Russian border, but they did not disclose his identity. When contacted, an officer with the Finnmark local police declined to provide further details regarding the arrested individual.
The permitted crossings into Russia must take place at designated points, and Medvedev’s lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, argued that his client’s arrest was a misunderstanding. Risnes stated that Medvedev had travelled to the area to locate the spot where he entered Norway in January. He was stopped while in a taxi and had no intention of crossing the border into Russia, according to Risnes.
Upon his arrival in Norway, Medvedev claimed to be seeking asylum due to concerns for his safety after witnessing the mistreatment and killing of Russian prisoners deployed to the frontline in Ukraine. His escape in January attracted global attention as a rare instance of defection to a Western country by someone claiming to have served as a mercenary for Russia in the Ukrainian conflict.
However, in a video posted on YouTube in May, Medvedev expressed his desire to return to Russia, despite acknowledging the potential risks to his life. He described himself as “some kind of a boy in a big game” that he no longer wished to be a part of. Risnes stated that Medvedev had the right to return to Russia if he chose to do so but emphasized that significant changes would need to occur to ensure his safe return.
In April, Medvedev was convicted in Norway for his involvement in a bar fight and for carrying an air gun. However, he was acquitted of charges related to violence against the police. At the time, he expressed hope for asylum and a fresh start.
The founder of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, made headlines on August 23 when the private jet he was travelling in crashed under unexplained circumstances, resulting in his death. Just two months prior, Prigozhin had briefly sent his mercenaries on an advance towards Moscow, directly challenging the Russian establishment.
As the legal proceedings against Medvedev continue, his case highlights the complex nature of international conflicts and the individuals involved in them, as well as the challenges they face when seeking asylum and navigating their future paths.