Norwegian authorities said on Wednesday they had released a former high-ranking member of the Russian private military group Wagner Group, who had sought asylum after illegally entering the country.
Andrey Medvedev was released from a detention center “against an order for a specific place of residence”, said Jon Andreas Johansen of the Norwegian Immigration Police. He added that the reasons for Medvedev being detained “are no longer present”.
Medvedev, who says he fears for his life if he returns to Russia, crossed into Norway, which shares a 123-mile border with Russia earlier this month. He was immediately transferred to Oslo, which is the normal procedure for asylum seekers.
Germany is “acting in close coordination” with its international allies, he added.
Vladimir Osechkin, of the Russian splinter group Gulagu.net, which helped Medvedev escape, said he was in protective custody at a safe house until he was transferred without explanation to a secure immigration centre.
Medvedev’s Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet on Wednesday that his client was unhappy with the strict security measures, so Norwegian police placed him in detention.
Risnes called it “a sensible decision” to release him again. “I still don’t know what the arrangement around it will look like,” he told Dagbladet.
In a video posted by Gulagu, Medvedev said he came under Russian fire before crossing into Norway. Norwegian police said they were notified by Russian border guards of tracks in the snow indicating someone may have crossed illegally.
Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, which participates in the investigation of war crimes in Ukraine, said it was questioning Medvedev, who “has witness status”. Gulagu’s Osechkin said the former fighter spoke with investigators on Friday.
Medvedev, who has been on the run since defecting from the Wagner Group, is reported to have told Gulagu.net that he is ready to tell everything he knows about the shadowy paramilitary group and its owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a millionaire with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Medvedev said he left the Wagner Group after his contract was extended beyond its July-November schedule without his consent. He has said he is willing to testify about any war crimes he has witnessed and has denied taking part in any.