Former Wagner commander says he is sorry for fighting in Ukraine


  • Former Wagner commander escaped Russia to Norway
  • The 26-year-old took part in the fighting near Bakhmut
  • Says he was afraid of being executed by his own side
  • Says he wants to testify about crimes in Ukraine

OSLO, Feb. 1 (Reuters) – A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway told Reuters he wanted to apologize for the fighting in Ukraine and spoke out to bring perpetrators of crimes to justice.

Andrei Medvedev, who crossed the Russian-Norwegian border on Jan. 13, said he witnessed Wagner’s murder and beating of Russian convicts brought to Ukraine to fight for the group.

“Many consider me a villain, a criminal, a murderer,” said 26-year-old Medvedev in an interview. “First of all, I want to apologize again and again, and while I don’t know how it would be received, I want to say I’m sorry.

“Yes, I served in Wagner. There are some moments (in my story) that people don’t like, that I totally joined them, but no one is born smart.”

Medvedev added that he had decided to speak out “to ensure that perpetrators are punished in certain cases, and I will try to do my part, at least a little bit”.

He cited an incident in which he said he witnessed two people unwilling to fight being shot in front of newly released convicts enrolled in Wagner.

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Asked about other incidents he witnessed, he said he was unable to comment at this stage as a war crimes investigation by the Norwegian police was ongoing.

Reuters could not immediately verify his claims.

Kripos, Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, which is responsible for investigating war crimes, has begun questioning Medvedev about his experiences in Ukraine.

He has witness status and is not suspected of anything other than the illegal border crossing. Medvedev said he had nothing to hide from police, adding “I didn’t commit any crimes, I was just a fighter”.

The Wagner group said that Medvedev had worked in a “Norwegian unit” of Wagner and “mistreated prisoners”.

“Be careful, he is very dangerous,” the group said in an emailed statement to Reuters, echoing earlier comments made by its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, about Medvedev.


Wagner forces are engaged in a bloody war of attrition against Ukrainian forces in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

At Wagner, Medvedev said he led a squad, took orders from a platoon commander, and planned combat missions. He said he saw “acts of bravery on both sides”.

Medvedev said he was afraid he could be executed at any time by someone from his own side.

“The scariest thing? To realize that there are people who consider themselves your compatriots who can come and kill you at a moment’s notice, or on someone’s orders,” he said. ‘Your own people. That was probably the scariest thing.’

Medvedev left Wagner at the end of his four-month contract, though his superiors told him to serve longer, he said.

Medvedev said he fled Russia across the Arctic border last month, climbing through barbed wire fences and dodging a border patrol with dogs, hearing Russian guards shoot as he ran through a forest and across the frozen river that separates the two countries.


Medvedev was born in the Tomsk region of Siberia. He said he was placed in an orphanage when he was about 12, after the death of his mother and the disappearance of his father.

He said he was drafted into the Russian army in 2014 at the age of 18 and served with the Ulyanovsk-based 31st Airborne Brigade.

“That was my first deployment in Donbas,” added Medvedev, who declined to give more details.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after a pro-Russian president was ousted during Ukraine’s Maidan revolution and Russia annexed Crimea, while Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas – comprising Donetsk and Luhansk – attempted to escape from the control of Kiev.

Medvedev said he had served several prison terms, including one for robbery, and when he got out of prison the last time, he decided to join the Wagner group in July 2022.

Medvedev said he was not recruited directly from prison, but decided to join because he realized he would likely be mobilized into the regular Russian armed forces anyway.

He signed a four-month contract for a monthly salary of about 250,000 rubles ($3,575). He crossed into Ukraine on July 16, he said, and fought near Bakhmut.

“It was a mess. The roads to Artemovsk were littered with the corpses of our soldiers,” he said, using the Russian place name for Bakhmut. “The losses were heavy. … I have seen many friends die.”

A special report published by Reuters last week found a graveyard in southern Russia, a burial ground for men convicted and recruited by Wagner to fight in Ukraine.

($1 = 69.9305 rubles)

Reportage by Nerijus Adomaitis, Janis Laizans and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo Edited by Rosalba O’Brien, Leslie Adler and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

Gwladys Fouche

Thomson Reuters

Oversees coverage from Norway for Reuters and likes flying to Spitsbergen in the Arctic, to oil rigs in the North Sea and guessing who will win the Nobel Peace Prize. Born in France and with Reuters since 2010, she has worked for The Guardian, Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera English, among others, and speaks four languages.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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