A former commander in Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, who fled to Norway to seek asylum after crossing the country’s arctic border, has been arrested by Norwegian immigration authorities.
Andrei Medvedev said he feared for his life after refusing to renew his service with Wagner, according to an interview with Vladimir Osechkin, head of human rights advocacy group Gulagu.net, earlier in January.
Medvedev said he was afraid of being executed in the same manner as Yevgeny Nuzhin — a defector from Wagner who was killed on camera with a sledgehammer.
“The person concerned has been arrested under the Immigration Act and it is being assessed whether he should be detained” [for a longer period of time], Jon Andreas Johansen, an official from Norway’s National Police Immigration Service (NPIC), said in a statement to CNN on Monday.
“Beyond that, we have no comments,” Johansen said.
On Monday, Gulagu.net head Osechkin said in a new statement posted on YouTube that Medvedev called him from the detention center and told him authorities arrested him on Sunday.
Osechkin said Medvedev is appealing to the prime minister of Norway and journalists for protection and to stop the deportation process.
More on Wagner: The mercenary group is headed by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and has emerged as a key player in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — recently doing much of the fighting in the small eastern town of Soledar.
The group is often described as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s off-the-books troops. It has expanded its footprint globally since its creation in 2014, and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
Just last week, the US announced it would designate the Russian mercenary organization as a “transnational criminal organization” and impose additional sanctions against the group and its support network across the world.
CNN’s Mick Krever and Katharina Krebs contributed reporting to this post.