The body of a Zambian student who was killed in Ukraine fighting for Russia has been returned to his home country.
Lemekhani Nyirenda died in September but Russian officials only informed Zambian authorities last month.
The 23-year-old, a student at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, had been serving nine years in prison for a drug offence.
He was given an amnesty in exchange for fighting for Russia in Ukraine, according to the Zambian government.
Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo said last week that after asking for an explanation about how
Nyirenda had ended up in Ukraine, “we were informed that Russia allows for prisoners to be provided an opportunity for pardon in exchange for participation in the special military operation”, which is how Russia refers to its war in Ukraine.
Mr Kakubo said the information had come from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The student was sent to the frontline by the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which has been recruiting prisoners.
The group’s head Yevgeny Prigozhin said last month in a Telegram statement that the student had voluntarily joined up before dying “a hero”.
In September, leaked footage showed Mr Prigozhin outlining the rules of fighting, such as no deserting or sexual contact with Ukrainian women, and then giving the prisoners five minutes to decide if they want to sign up.
Ominously, he told the prisoners he would get them out of jail alive but said he could not promise to bring them back alive.
Nyirenda’s body arrived in the capital Lusaka on Sunday and has been handed over to pathologists for examination.
The body will be given to the family for burial after a post-mortem has been completed, family spokesperson Dr Ian Banda said in a statement.
The family told the BBC that they want someone to be held accountable for his death – saying they have been “robbed of a life with him.” (BBC)