Former commander in Russia’s Wagner Group seeking asylum, Norway says

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A former commander in the Russian mercenary Wagner Group is seeking asylum in Norway, authorities there said.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration told the Associated Press on Monday that the man, whom it identified as Andrey Medvedev, had arrived in Norway but declined to comment further, citing security and privacy reasons.

Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer also told the AP that his client is seeking asylum in the country. The lawyer did not respond to a Washington Post request for comment Monday night.

Last week, police said an individual, whom they identified only as a foreign national, was arrested after illegally crossing into Norway from Russia early Friday. The two countries share a 123-mile-long border.

Reuters, citing the Russian human rights organization Gulagu Net, reported that Medvedev fled the Wagner Group after witnessing its capture and execution of members who deserted the group.

The shadowy Wagner Group was founded by business executive Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who, until Russia launched the Ukraine war, had denied any connection to the group. Prigozhin is a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s. Wagner has been accused of carrying out atrocities in countries including Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic and Mali.

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According to U.S. assessments, Wagner has deployed 50,000 fighters in Ukraine — 40,000 of them convicts recruited directly from Russian prisons with the offer of a pardon in exchange for six months’ service. It is unclear how Medvedev joined the group.

Using conscripts and prison inmates, Russia doubles its forces in Ukraine

Earlier this month, a member of Russia’s Human Rights Council said Putin had secretly pardoned dozens of convicts before they were deployed to Ukraine.

This is not the first report of a Wagner member fleeing the group. Last year, Yevgeny Nuzhin, a 55-year-old murder convict who was released from prison to fight in Ukraine, gave interviews after defecting to Ukrainian forces.

In November, however, an unverified video was shared on a Wagner-linked Telegram account appearing to show his brutal killing with a sledgehammer. It was not clear who carried out the purported execution or when, but a Ukrainian presidential adviser was quoted as saying that Nuzhin had agreed to return to Russia voluntarily. According to Medvedev’s statements to Gulagu Net, quoted by Reuters, Nuzhin had been a member of his unit.

Norway, a NATO member, says it has provided hundreds of millions of dollars of humanitarian and military support to Kyiv since the Russian invasion was launched almost a year ago.

Last year, Norwegian authorities arrested at least seven Russians for flying drones or taking pictures near sensitive areas. Among those arrested was a son of a close associate of Putin’s.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russia claimed Friday to have seized control of Soledar, a heavily contested salt-mining town in eastern Ukraine where fighting has raged in recent days, but a Ukrainian military official maintained that the battle was not yet over.

Russia’s Gamble: The Post examined the road to war in Ukraine, and Western efforts to unite to thwart the Kremlin’s plans, through extensive interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

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