Zambian student killed while fighting in Russia-Ukraine war

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Zambia is seeking answers from Russia after a 23-year-old student who was serving a nine-year jail term in a Russian prison was killed in Ukraine while fighting for Russia.

Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, aged 23, was a Zambian Government sponsored student who was pursuing Nuclear Engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPHI) in the Russian Federation.

According to a statement released today by Stanley Kakubo, Zambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in April 2020, Nyirenda contravened the laws of the Russian Federation and was subsequently convicted and sentenced to nine years and six months imprisonment. He was serving his sentence at Tyer Medium Security Prison on the outskirts of Moscow.

Kakubo said the Ministry was informed on 9th November, 2022, that Nyirenda was killed at the battlefront of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Further inquiries established that Nyirenda passed away on 22nd September, 2022, in Ukraine.

However, the circumstances of his death are unclear and Zambia is seeking answers from 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,” said Kakubo.

He added that he has also been in touch with Nyirenda’s family to provide an update on more details surrounding their loved one’s death.

Meanwhile, Nyirenda’s remains have since been transported to the Russian border town of Rostov in readiness for repatriation to Zambia.

Russia and Ukraine have been fighting since February this year and there are reports that Russia offered prisoners freedom in exchange for fighting in the war.

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