The former Wagner mercenary says in an exclusive CNN interview on Monday that the atrocities he witnessed in Ukraine ultimately drove him into exile.
Andrei Medvedev told CNN’s Anderson Cooper from Oslo, Norway. He is seeking asylum in Oslo, Norway’s capital, after crossing the Arctic border from Russia.
“They rounded up those who didn’t want to fight and shot them in front of the newcomers,” he claims. “They took two prisoners who refused to fight, shot them in front of everyone, and buried them in a trench dug by the trainees.”
CNN was unable to independently verify his account, and Wagner did not respond to requests for comment.
The 26-year-old, who previously served in the Russian army, joined Wagner as a volunteer. Less than 10 days after he signed his contract in July 2022, he crossed to Ukraine to serve near the front-line city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. Mercenary groups play a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Medvedev said he reported directly to the group’s founder Dmitry Utkin and Russian oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin.
He calls Prigogine a “devil”. If he was a hero of Russia, he would have taken a gun and fled with his soldiers,” Medvedev said.
Prigozhin previously admitted that Medvedev worked for his company and said that “he should have been charged with trying to abuse prisoners.”
Medvedev told CNN that he does not want to comment on what he did during the fighting in Ukraine.
According to Medvedev, Wagner had no tactical strategy and the army was planning on the fly.
“There was no real tactics. We just got orders for the enemy’s position… there were no clear orders for how to behave. We planned it step-by-step: Who was going to fire, what shifts were going to be…what would happen, that was our question,” he said.
Medvedev told CNN from Oslo that he had evaded arrest “at least 10 times” and dodged bullets from Russian troops after crossing the border in an audacious defection. He said he used white camouflage to cross the icy lake into Norway.
He told CNN that by the sixth day of his deployment in Ukraine, he knew he didn’t want to go back for another tour after witnessing troops being turned into cannon fodder.
He said he had 10 men under his command, but that number increased after prisoners were allowed to join. “There were more bodies and more and more people came in. Eventually I had more people under my command,” he said. “I couldn’t count how many. They were in constant circulation. Corpses, more prisoners, more bodies, more prisoners.”
Advocacy groups said enlisted prisoners were told their families would receive a payout of 5 million rubles ($71,000) if they died in the war.
But in reality, “nobody wanted to pay that kind of money,” Medvedev said. He claimed that many Russians killed in action in Ukraine had been “declared missing.”
Medvedev told CNN that he was emotional at times in interviews and saw courage on both sides of the war.
“You know, I saw courage on both sides. On the Ukrainian side, and on our boys… I just want them to know that,” he said. rice field.
He added that he wanted to share his story now to help bring Prigogine and Russian President Vladimir Putin to justice.
“Sooner or later, Russian propaganda will stop working, the people will rise, all leaders will … try to get, and new ones will appear.”
Wagner is often described as Putin’s incompetent troop. Since its founding in 2014, it has expanded its footprint globally and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
When asked if he feared the fate of Yevgeny Nudin, another Wagner defector who was murdered with a hammer in front of cameras, Medvedev said Nudin’s death encouraged him to leave.
“I would say it made me bolder and decided to leave,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the year Medvedev entered Ukraine as a Wagner recruit.