Friday, February 23, 2024

Ukraine: Wagner group acknowledges the death of a Zambian recruited in prison


Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin says a Zambian student who died in Ukraine had been fighting for his Wagner Private Military Group.

Zambia said it stood by a previous statement asking Moscow for an explanation of how Lemekhani Nyirenda, 23, went from serving a prison sentence near the Russian capital to dying at war in September.

In response to questions, the Zambian ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation said it was “firmly engaged” in trying to get the man’s remains repatriated.

Nyirenda’s father said he had been serving a nine-year jail sentence on the outskirts of Moscow for a drug offence when he was “conscripted” to fight. His family said it was unclear how he was recruited or by whom.

On Tuesday, Prigozhin’s Concord catering group said Nyirenda had been recruited by Wagner. Prigozhin and other Wagner representatives have toured Russian prisons offering amnesty in return for signing up to fight for Russia in Ukraine.

“Yes, I remember this guy well,” Prigozhin said in a written response to a question from a reporter as to whether the Zambian had been fighting for Wagner.

Prigozhin said Nyirenda had died a “hero” and that he was “one of the first to break into the enemy trenches on Sept. 22”.

Prigozhin said he had asked the jailed student why he wanted to join the fight, given a high chance he would be killed, and that the Zambian citizen responded: “You Russians helped us Africans gain independence for many years. When it was difficult for us, you extended your hand to us and continue to do so now … The least I could do, probably, to pay our debts is go to war with you.”

Zambian Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo said earlier this month that Russian officials had informed the Zambian government of the death of Nyirenda who was a government-sponsored student before he was sentenced in Russia for unspecified crimes in April 2020.

He said the Zambian Embassy in the Russian capital of Moscow had established that Nyirenda died Sept. 22 and that his remains were transported to the Russian border town of Rostov ahead of repatriation to Zambia.

Before his prison sentence, Nyirenda was studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute.

He was serving his approximately nine-year sentence at a prison on the outskirts of Moscow, according to the Zambian government.

Reports have circulated that Russia — desperate for more manpower to support what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine — has offered freedom to convicts if they join the fight.

Russia has employed the Wagner Group, whose head Prigozhin is said to be a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and has admitted meddling in U.S. elections — in several armed conflicts worldwide.


  1. I am sure the Zambian govt will be silent once a loan from Russia is guaranteed…we all know what is happening in Russia regarding recruitment but Western media is using us to further their propaganda, move over this silly boy messed up immediately he got in with the wrong company in a foreign land and started commiting crimes. Just get his body back to his family and move on also get the monies to his family if he had one in Russia.

    • Mlekani was most probably framed for a long jail term and then enticed to fight in the most dangerous war front that regular Russian soldiers will not be sent becuase of reparcassions from Russian families

  2. This story could’ve have made sense if Lemekhani weren’t in prison. Prisoners are the responsibility of authorities and in this case Russia is fully responsible for his death. By being jailed Lemekhani lost his freedom and therefore couldn’t enter into any legally binding contract. Suppose he didn’t die, it wasn’t Wagner that was going to release him from custody on whatever terms but Russian authorities. I advise Kakubo to summon the Russian ambassador and express our disquiet about this whole issue. If Russia wants Zambian mercenaries to help them fight that war, let them contact Miles Sampa as there are many among the happy people of Matero that would happily take up the offer than prey on a defenseless youth. It’s disgusting

  3. Were is the hard written document that says that he said that and it must be written in his own hand written otherwise to me theses are just made up stories made by Russia to protect itself. We should not be fooled as Zambian people we all know or have our suspections of what could have happened but all we just want to know is the truth of what had happened.

  4. Otherwise this is really going to end up been a third world war for Russia for the innocent blood that its takeing away the man is a Zambian and we Zambian people live like one family just like our motto one Zambia one Nation when you hurt one of our own you have hurt or affected all of us in Zambia. We live so very peaceful as 72 tribes and more in one country without fighting each other but why must one of our own go and fight and die in a country that he was not even born from that country. RUSSIA no that you have blood for Zambia and you also know that African countries have tru witchcraft medicine oneday some one will use this medicine to revenge on you RUSSIA.

  5. A Private military group conscripted a Zambian citizen in an illegal war. Legal wars are not fought by mercenaries. They are fought by established armies who are bound by international law. Russia is using the Wagner group as an ex-ops unit that can flout the law and commit atrocities just like the US did in Iraq. Zambian government must sue the Wagner Private military group for compensation. The statement that Yevgeny Prigozhin has given is too scripted. This is propaganda and not truth.

  6. Silly reporters: What question did you ask. The answer is not from the kind of question you should have asked:
    In response to questions, the Zambian ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation said it was “firmly engaged” in trying to get the man’s remains repatriated.

  7. Tarino,so a student studying nuclear science cannot be framed? Zambians are not known for traffiking drugs in Russia,only for twerking at sacred shrines The Wagner Group is amongst many secret armies that prey on persons in desperate situations to work in dangerous spaces as soldiers of fortune.And this explanation about MrMelekani dying as a patriot for Russia is BSh**t

  8. First of all, Russia never helped Zambia gain Independence. Russia was involved in sponsoring civil wars in some African countries like Angola.
    2nd how powerful is this private company to just enter into a govt prison and recruit prisoners to fight as mercenaries in that govt’s war? The buck stops on the Russian government and they are responsible for the welfare of prisoners.
    I think he was forced and had no choice… do you really think he would say “no” whatever the circumstances?

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