Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda Credit: GIN photo

Zambian officials are seeking an explanation from Russian authorities of the death of Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, a former student of nuclear engineering in Moscow. The student was killed in September fighting on the side of the Russian army.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of operations for the Russian paramilitary Wagner group, acknowledged this week that they recruited the Zambian student from a Russian prison, but claimed he volunteered for the job.

“Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, on September 22, was one of the first to enter the enemy trenches, showing courage and bravery,” Prigozhin was reported to have written on his social network.

The mercenary group is said to be recruiting fighters directly from Russian prisons with the promise of a salary and amnesty.

Zambian Minister of Foreign Affairs Stanley Kakubo is asking Russian authorities for details regarding the recruitment of Nyirenda and how he ended up fighting in Ukraine.

According to Nyirenda’s father, the youth had been sponsored to study nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute and was working part-time as a courier when an unknown person handed him a package containing drugs. This led to his conviction on unspecified crimes in April 2020 and a sentence of nine years at the Tyer medium security facility on the outskirts of the Russian capital. The family was not told who conscripted their son from prison and only received a message “from a man we do not know in Russia who told us that there was a will, which our son left, and we should travel to Russia,” the father said.

The youth was killed on Sept. 22 and the ministry learned of his death on Nov. 9.

Zambia has traditionally sent students to Russia to study on scholarships, as was the case with Nyirenda.

Zambia has taken a neutral position on the Russia-Ukraine war, as many other African countries have, but says it condemns any form of war. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *