Cape Town – Lemekhani Nyirenda, the 23-year-old Zambian citizen, who was serving a prison sentence in a Russian prison died on the front lines of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
On Tuesday, the Zambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation issued a statement saying that they are calling on Moscow to offer clarity surrounding the circumstances in the death of Nyirenda, who was a government-sponsored student studying in Russia.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it was working to ascertain details about the death of the Zambian student on the front-line in Ukraine, TASS news agency reported.
In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Nyirenda’s sister Muzang’alu Nyirenda said they want to know how he was conscripted without his family being notified. She also said that one of the questions they are asking themselves is if her brother was coerced.
She further added that the family felt “robbed” by her brother's death.
She told the BBC that her brother travelled to Russia in 2019 to study nuclear engineering on a government sponsorship.
What we know so far:
On Monday November 15, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation in Zambia, minister Stanley Kakubo informed citizens of the southern African country, of the Zambian government sponsored student’s death.
Lemekhani Nyirenda was pursuing Nuclear Engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPHI) in Russia.
Zambian officials say that they were informed of Nyirenda’s death on 9 November, 2022, at the battlefront of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Zambian authorities say that through the embassy of the republic of Zambia in Moscow, the ministry immediately proceeded to verify the information, it was through this enquiry that it was established that Nyirenda died 22 September, 2022, in Ukraine.
Nyirenda’s remains have since been transported to the Russian border town of Rostov in readiness for repatriation to Zambia, the embassy confirmed.
Zambia’s department of international relations further said in a statement, that 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 Tver Medium Security Prison on the outskirts of Moscow.
The Zambian government has requested the Russian authorities to urgently provide information on the circumstances under which Nyirenda, serving a prison sentence in Moscow, could have been recruited to fight in Ukraine and subsequently lose his life.
How did a Zambian student end up being recruited to fight for Russia in its war with Ukraine ? We must get the Russian Embassy to answer for this. All of us, big nations or small ones must answer to international norms & bigger nations shouldn’t be allowed to bully small ones !!!
— Joseph Kalimbwe (@joseph_kalimbwe) November 15, 2022