Like many of his compatriots, Lemekhani Nyirenda from Zambia is studying in Russia on a scholarship. The 23-year-old is pursuing his studies at the Moscow Institute for Engineering Physics and also works as a courier. One day, as his father Edwin Nyirenda told the Reuters news agency, when an unknown person handed him a package of drugs, Lemekhani was caught by the police and arrested. A court finally sentenced him to nine years in prison for a drug offense.
A few days ago, a Russian authority informed the Zambian government that Lemekhani had died. Not recently, but already in September. Moscow says nothing to his family, instead the government of Zambia must deliver the sad news to the relatives. The student’s family only received a message from Russia from an unknown man. “He told us that there was a will and that we should go to Russia,” father Edwin told the BBC. There is no further information.
But as if the young man’s sudden death wasn’t surprising enough, dubious details then seep to the surface. The Zambian embassy in Russia learned that the 23-year-old did not die in prison, as was assumed, but on the battlefield – in the fight against Ukraine.
Presumably, the student had been recruited for the Russian army, or perhaps he had volunteered for military service. After all, Russia offers its prisoners the prospect of freedom if they are willing to serve at the front. The Wagner mercenary group also recruits prisoners for the war, as shown, for example, in a video by Wagner boss Evgenyj Prigoschin, in which he explains the rules of battle to the prisoners and then gives them five minutes to think about it.
Whichever way Lemekhani ended up in the war, following his death the Zambian government in Lusaka has asked Moscow to “transmit information about the circumstances as a matter of urgency”. Zambia’s Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo has since learned that Lemekhani’s body has been transported to the southern Russian border town of Rostov-na-Don. From there she is to be transferred to Zambia.
But the Zambian government also wants to clarify the numerous unanswered questions from the relatives. “I, as Minister, am personally in touch with the family of the deceased to inform them of the details of his passing.”
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