Zambian student, serving jail sentence for drug-trafficking, dies while fighting for Russia

Lemekhani Nyirenda,

Lusaka – A Zambian student serving a jail sentence in Russia has been killed in Ukraine while forcibly fighting on the Russian side, Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo revealed on Monday.

Lemekhani Nyirenda, a 23-year-old student studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, was killed during combat in Ukraine on September 22 but the Russian authorities only notified the Zambian government on November 9, Kakubo said.

He said his ministry has requested answers as to how the Zambian ended up fighting for Russia.

“In view of this very sad development, 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,” Kakubo said.

According to Kakubo, Nyirenda was convicted of an undisclosed crime and sentenced to nine years at Tyer medium security facility on the outskirts of the Russian capital in April 2020.

Nyirenda’s body has been transferred to the Russian border town of Rostov in order to begin the repatriation to Zambia, the minister said.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was working to ascertain details about the death of a Zambian student on the frontline in Ukraine, the TASS news agency reported.

Zambia on Monday asked Russia to explain how one of its citizens who had been serving a prison sentence in Moscow had ended up on the battlefield in Ukraine.