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Zambia Student Serving Prison Term in Russia Dies at Ukrainian Battlefront

Map of Zambia
Map of Zambia

Zambia is seeking answers from Russia after a Zambian student who was serving a prison sentence in Russia ended up dying at the battlefront in Ukraine.

Nathan Lemekhani Nyirenda, 23, was serving a nine-year prison sentence in Russia after being convicted of drug possession in 2020.

But Zambia’s Foreign Minister Stanely Kakubo, at a Monday news conference, said the government was informed on November 9 that Nyirenda had died at the battlefront in Ukraine.

“The Zambian government has requested the Russian authorities to urgently provide information on the circumstances under which a Zambian citizen serving a prison sentence in Moscow could have been recruited to fight in Ukraine and subsequently lose his life.”

Zambia’s Foreign Ministry says it learned that Nyirenda died on September 22 in Ukraine and that his remains were taken to the Russian border town of Rostov to be sent back to Zambia.

Kakubo, who said he visited Nyirenda’s family, said will communicate more details once the Russian authorities provide more information on the circumstances of his death.

Nyirenda was studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute before his conviction.

As Russia has struggled in its war against Ukraine, reports from Russia indicate authorities have been recruiting troops from prisons.

One video circulated in September on social media showed President Vladimir Putin’s ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, who runs the controversial Wagner Group of mercenaries.

In the video, Prigozhin tells a large group of prisoners that their sentences would be commuted if they fight for Russia in Ukraine.