A 23-year-old Zambian student fighting for the Russian army was killed during a battle in Ukraine. According to the Zambian foreign minister, Mr. Stanley Kakubo, the student was serving a prison sentence for an unspecified crime.
The student, who has been identified as Lemekhani Nyirenda, was a government-sponsored student studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. He broke the Russian Federation law in April 2020, and as a result, he was found guilty and given a nine years and six months prison sentence, which he was saving at Tyer Medium Security Prison on the outskirts of Moscow.
Mr. Kakubo said on Monday that Nyirenda was killed in September, but the Russian authorities only notified the Zambian government of the death on the 9th of November.
According to Mr. Kakubo, the Zambian government has asked the Russian authorities to promptly give information on the circumstances under which a Zambian national serving a prison sentence in Moscow may have been recruited to fight in Ukraine and subsequently lost his life.
The Zambian Embassy in Russia confirmed that the body of Mr. Nyirenda has since been transported to the Russian border town of Rostov in preparation for repatriation to Zambia.
Mr. Makubo stated that he has been in touch personally with the family of the deceased to provide an update on more details surrounding their loved one’s death, and once official word from the Russian authorities is received he will continue to be in touch.
The circumstances of Nyirenda’s release from prison are unknown, but Russia has granted freedom to several prisoners in exchange for their participation in its conflict with Ukraine.
The number of Africans who have joined the Russian military since its protracted invasion of Ukraine is still unknown. One African student who voluntarily joined Russian forces in the Luhasnk region is a 27-year-old Economics student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jean Claude Sangwa.
A number of organizations have estimated that roughly 10,000 African students who were enrolled in Ukrainian and Russian universities before Russia’s invasion on February 24 are now dispersed throughout Europe and are encountering difficulties in pursuing their academic goals.
Several international students claimed to have experienced racism and segregation at borders. African students who have experienced conflict find themselves in a precarious situation due to the complexity of the immigration regulations in European countries. The nations they moved to have prohibitively expensive tuition, and scholarships are typically only available to Europeans.
Russia Recruiting Prisoners
In September, Russian military officials and private military firms started recruiting prisoners and promising them freedom after participating in the war. A video of Mr. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the alleged boss of the private military firm Wagner Group, circulated online.
In the video, Prigozhin promised inmates that if they served alongside Wagner in Ukraine, they would be set free. Prisoners were also informed that any deserters will face a firing squad execution and that they can return home after serving their six-month sentence and receiving a pardon.
Russian private military contractors have been looking to the prison population to reinforce their forces as the battle went on and Russia sustained losses. The military firms have been selecting prisoners between the ages of 22 and 50. Regardless of their sentence, prisoners have been offered, and some have been forced, to participate in the Ukraine war for their freedom.