A former commander of Russia’s notorious Wagner Group has fled to Norway and begun spilling the group’s most closely guarded secrets—a move that could ultimately be the downfall of mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Three days after Andrei Medvedev fled across the frozen Pasvik River into Norway—under gunfire from Russia’s FSB border guards, according to him—Prigozhin confirmed the former commander was one of his men.
But his response was both laughable and telling.
“Be careful, he’s very dangerous,” Prigozhin said through his press service.
He said Medvedev was wanted by Wagner’s in-house security service for “mistreatment of prisoners,” with the mercenary boss counting on assistance from “Russian law enforcement agencies” to hold the defector accountable.
The way Medvedev tells it, however, Wagner is only hunting him down to try and shut him up before he can reveal the group’s own battlefield executions. The former commander had been sounding the alarm over the group for weeks before his escape to Norway.
“If they catch me, I will be eliminated. There will either be an execution or shooting. I don’t know what will be enough in their imaginations, but in any case I will not be alive,” Medvedev told Gulagu.net founder Vladimir Osechkin.
Osechkin, whose human rights group works closely with defectors from Russian security services, announced over the weekend that Medvedev had made it into Norway and requested political asylum.
The former Wagner commander has confirmed that the mercenary group uses a special kill squad to execute its own recruits.
“I witnessed several such incidents, the executions of convicts [recruited from Russian prisons], they were specially taken out in front of other prisoners and publicly executed in order to scare [the others],” Medvedev said.
He said those executed are buried on-site and officially deemed missing without a trace, presumably so the group can avoid paying family members the promised compensation.
Regardless of whatever headaches Medvedev’s testimony in Norway might cause for the group from Western authorities, his escape has reportedly already inflamed tensions between Prigozhin and Russia’s top military brass, who have increasingly been butting heads in recent days over who gets to claim credit for battlefield wins: Prigozhin’s shadow army of convicted murderers and rapists, or the regular Russian army tasked with bringing Vladimir Putin victory in Ukraine.
A source cited by Gulagu.net on Tuesday said Prigozhin’s team is already preparing to take that internal war up a notch by accusing Russia’s own Defense Ministry of orchestrating Medvedev’s defection.
“The General Staff of the Defense Ministry fast-tracked the ‘flight’ of A. Medvedev, who was initially under their patronage. The goal is to discredit Prigozhin against the backdrop of an attempt to ‘steal’ his victory,” the source said of Wagner’s purported version of events.
Prigozhin and his Wagner Group, who have largely been allowed to do as they please as long as their tactics bring the Kremlin closer to a battlefield victory, seem to finally be realizing they are as expendable to Putin as their own prison recruits are to Wagner leadership.
Prigozhin revealed as much last week, when he hit back at the Russian Defense Ministry taking credit for gains in Soledar as an attempt to “steal victory” from the Wagner Group.
Putin quickly responded with a shakeup of Russian military leaders that was seen as a “snub” to Prigozhin, and on Sunday, the Russian leader appeared to take another swipe by omitting Wagner altogether from his comments about the Russian Defense Ministry leading the charge in Soledar.
Gulagu.net, citing an unnamed source, reports there is already talk of “official investigations” into Wagner and Prigozhin in Russia as the Kremlin realizes that allowing Prigozhin to steal the spotlight in the war “works against Putin personally.”
“People from his team in pre-trial detention centers are giving testimony and a campaign to de-Wagnerize Russia is only a matter of time,” the group said.