(BBC)-A Zambian student – who was serving a prison sentence in Russia – was killed on the front line in Ukraine in unclear circumstances, the Zambian foreign minister has told a media briefing in the capital Lusaka.
Lemekhani Nyirenda, 23, was pursuing nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, but in 2020 he was sentenced to nine years in prison for an unspecified offence.
Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stanley Kakubo said on Monday that Nyirenda, who was a government-sponsored student, was killed in September but the Russian authorities had just notified the Zambian government of the death.
“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,” Mr Kakubo said.
He said the Zambian embassy in Russia had further established that Mr Nyirenda’s body has since been transported to the Russian southern border town of Rostov in readiness for repatriation to Zambia.
“As minister, I have been personally in touch, and will maintain contact with the family of the deceased in order to provide an update on more details surrounding their loved one’s death, once official communication is received from the Russian authorities,” he said.
The circumstances of Nyirenda release from prison are unknown, but Russia has offered freedom to some prisoners in exchange for fighting in its war Ukraine.