Russia urged to explain how Zambian student died on front line in Ukraine

Foreign Ministry in Moscow says it is working to establish details of 23-year-old's death

Fighting on the front line in Donetsk. Zambia has asked Russia to explain how a 23-year-old Zambian died on the battlefield in Ukraine. Reuters
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Russia is looking into the death of a Zambian student on the front line in Ukraine after the African country asked for an explanation.

Zambia asked Russia on Monday to explain how Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda, a 23-year-old who had been serving a prison sentence in Moscow, had ended up on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was working to establish the circumstances surrounding the death, the Tass news agency reported.

Zambia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed Nyirenda's death in a Facebook post on Monday.

It said Nyirenda, who had been studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, had died "at the battlefront of the conflict" between Russia and Ukraine on September 22.

Nyirenda’s remains have been transported to the Russian border town of Rostov to be repatriated, the post said.

Nyirenda had been serving a sentence of nine years and six months at a medium-security prison on the outskirts of Moscow after being convicted of a crime in Russia, said Zambia's Foreign Affairs Minister Stanley Kakubo.

The offence, which was not revealed officially, took place in April 2020. Nyirenda's father Edwin Nyirenda said the student was jailed for drug trafficking while working part-time as a courier. It was not clear how the prisoner was recruited to the front line.

"He was serving the prison sentence when he was conscripted into the army to go and fight in Ukraine but we don't know who conscripted him," his father said.

Mr Kakubo said: "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."

Russia's Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the circumstances of Nyirenda’s journey to Ukraine and subsequent death.

Edwin Nyirenda said his son was given a parcel containing drugs and the police were not able to identify the person who gave it to him.

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Updated: November 15, 2022, 11:20 AM