A 23-year-old Zambian student who was convicted in Russia and serving a prison sentence on the outskirts of Moscow has been found dead in combat in Ukraine, the Zambian government said on Monday, demanding an explanation from Russia.
Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda “died on 22 September 2022 in Ukraine,” Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo said in a statement, “on the frontline of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Zambia said it had asked Russia to explain “the circumstances under which a Zambian citizen, who is serving a prison sentence in Moscow, could have been recruited to fight in Ukraine and lost his life.
The boss of the paramilitary group Wagner, Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is reputed to be close to Vladimir Putin, is accused by Ukraine of sending thousands of fighters to the front, recruited directly from Russian prisons in exchange for the promise of a salary and an amnesty.
Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda had been convicted of breaking Russian law in April 2020, according to the Zambian government, which did not give further details.
The student of nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI), had been sentenced to nine years and six months in prison. He was serving his sentence in a medium-security prison on the outskirts of Moscow.
The Zambian Foreign Minister said he was “deeply saddened by the untimely death of Mr Nyirenda in such circumstances”, adding that his remains had been taken to the Russian border town of Rostov for repatriation.