By James Frater and Nimi Princewill, CNN
A Zambian student, jailed in Russia was killed during a battle in Ukraine, Zambia’s foreign ministry said Monday.
The student was a 23-year-old student the Zambian government had sponsored to study nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute.
The man was identified as Lemekhani Nathan Nyirenda by Zambia’s Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo in a statement.
Nyirenda was convicted in 2020 of unspecified crimes in Russia and sent to prison for nine years and six months. He was serving his sentence at the Tyer Medium Security Prison on the outskirts of Moscow,” according to the statement.
The Zambian foreign ministry said it was informed of his death “on 9th November, 2022… at the battlefront of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”
The ministry said it had urgent questions for Moscow about how the Zambian ended up fighting for Moscow.
“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.”
In August, a CNN investigation discovered Russia was recruiting prisoners into its military in exchange for their freedom.
Hundreds of inmates were believed to be approached in Russian jails as Moscow raced to bolster its troops, which has suffered heavy casualties since the war began.
It remains unclear how many Africans have been enlisted into the Russian army since its months-long invasion of Ukraine.
The ministry says the remains of the man were transported to the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don to be repatriated to Zambia.
CNN has contacted the Zambian foreign ministry for more information.
Thousands of Africans, mostly students fled the attack by Russian troops as they marched into Ukraine in February.
However many foreign students reported facing segregation and racism at borders. Many of the fleeing students were later evacuated to their various countries by their governments.
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