A Zambian student who was incarcerated in Moscow is said to have died at the battlefront in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the southern African nation’s foreign ministry announced in a statement on Monday, per CNN. The African nation’s government has since asked Russian authorities to provide details on how a “Zambian citizen, serving a prison sentence in Moscow, could have been recruited to fight in Ukraine and subsequently lose his life.”
Prior to his incarceration, the deceased, identified as 23-year-old Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, was a nuclear engineering student at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. Zambia’s Foreign Minister, Stanley Kakubo, also said Nyirenda had been sponsored by the government of Zambia.
In 2020, Nyirenda was sentenced to nine years and six months in prison for contravening the “laws of the Russian Federation”, the statement said, adding that the deceased student was “serving his sentence at Tyer Medium Security Prison on the outskirts of Moscow.”
The southern African nation’s foreign ministry said Nyirenda’s death “at the battlefront of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine” was communicated to them on “9th November, 2022.”
CNN had claimed in August that Russia was allowing prisoners to sign up for the military in exchange for their freedom. Moscow is said to have passed those offers to hundreds of inmates in Russian jails as they attempted to reinforce their troops after invading Ukraine. Russia has reportedly recorded significant casualties in the wake of the invasion.
But the number of Africans the Russian army has recruited cannot be established. Zambia’s foreign ministry said that Nyirenda’s remains “have since been transported to the Russian border town of Rostov in readiness for repatriation to Zambia.”
In the wake of the invasion, several Africans – most of them being students – fled Ukraine. But several of such students said they were racially discriminated against at border crossings. Governments that had their nationals studying in Ukraine ultimately managed to bring many of them back home.