A former Wagner Group commander describes brutality and incompetence on the front lines

Medvedev declined to comment to CNN about what he did while fighting in Ukraine.

Former laborer Group Wagner The brutality he witnessed in Ukraine eventually led to his renunciation, he said in an exclusive interview with CNN.

Fighters from Wagner’s group were often sent into battle with few symptoms, and the treatment of reluctant recruits was barbaric, Andrei Medvedev told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. Russia.

“They rounded up those who didn’t want to fight and killed them in front of the new arrivals,” he alleges. “They brought two prisoners who refused to fight and shot them in front of everyone, even burying them in trenches dug by the pioneers.”

CNN could not verify the independence of this report, and Wagner’s team did not respond to a request for comment.

The 26-year-old, who says he previously served in the Russian military, joined the Wagner group as a volunteer. Within 10 days of signing the deal in July 2022, it crossed Ukraine, serving near the Donetsk region’s leading city of Baghmut. The mercenary group played a key role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Medvedev said he reported directly to the group’s founders, Dmitry Utkin, and Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.

He refers to Prigogine as “the devil”. If he was a Russian player, Medvedev said, “he would have taken the gun and run with the soldiers.”

Prigozhin confirmed that Medvedev had already worked for his company and said he “should have been prosecuted for attempting to mistreat prisoners.”

An NGO created a fake press cover to help Andrei Medvedev leave Russia. Photo: Darren Bull/CNN

Medvedev declined to comment to CNN about what he did while fighting in Ukraine.

The Wagner group lacks a tactical strategy, with troops developing plans on the ground, Medvedev said.

“There was really no strategy. We took orders based on the position of the opponent… There were no orders on how to react. We planned moment by moment what to do. Who would shoot, what kind of shifts we would have… how it would play out on the field. , that is our problem,” he said.

Medvedev, he says, evaded arrest “at least ten times” after crossing the border with CNN from Oslo, dodging bullets from Russian forces. He crossed an icy lake into Norway, wearing white camouflage to stay invisible, he said.

He told CNN he knew on the sixth day of his deployment to Ukraine that he didn’t want to return to another campaign after seeing troops being turned into cannon fodder.

It started with 10 men under his command, and the number of prisoners allowed to join increased, he said. “There were more dead bodies and more people arrived. In the end, I had too many people under my command,” he said. “I couldn’t count how many. They were constantly circulating. Corpses, more prisoners, more corpses, more prisoners.”

Activist groups say the prisoners who signed were told their families would receive five million rubles (65,220 euros) if they died in battle.

But in reality, “no one wants to pay that amount,” Medvedev said. Many Russians who died in the war in Ukraine “have gone missing,” he said.

Medvedev became emotional at points in the interview, telling CNN he saw courageous acts on both sides of the war.

“You know, I saw courage on both sides, on the Ukrainian side, and from our comrades … I want them to know that,” he said.

She said she wants to share her story now to help bring Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin to justice.

“Sooner or later, the propaganda in Russia will stop, the people will rise, all our leaders will be arrested and a new leader will emerge.”

The Wagner group is often described as Putin’s underground army. Since its creation in 2014, the group has expanded its presence around the world and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.

When asked if he was afraid The fate of Yevgeny Nugin, another defector from the Wagner groupMurdered on camera with a sledgehammer, Medvedev said Nugin’s death inspired him to quit.

“I would say it made me braver and more determined,” she said.

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