A Zambian student jailed in Russia has died during a battle in Ukraine, Zambia’s foreign ministry said on Monday.
The student was a 23-year-old student who had been sponsored by the Zambian government to study nuclear engineering at the Institute of Engineering Physics in Moscow.
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 Tyer medium security prison on the outskirts of Moscow,” the statement said.
Zambia’s foreign ministry said it was informed of his death “on November 9, 2022 … on the battlefront of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.”
The ministry said it had pressing questions for Moscow about how Zambia ended up fighting for Moscow.
“Given this very sad development, the Zambian government has asked the Russian authorities to urgently provide information on the circumstances under which a Zambian citizen, serving a prison sentence in Moscow, may have been recruited to fight in Ukraine and subsequently , lose your life.”
In August, a CNN investigation found that Russia was conscripting prisoners into its military in exchange for their freedom.
Hundreds of inmates are believed to have flocked to Russian prisons as Moscow scrambles to bolster its troops, which have suffered heavy casualties since the war began.
It remains unclear how many Africans have enlisted in the Russian military since its months-long invasion of Ukraine.
The ministry says the man’s remains were flown to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don for repatriation to Zambia.
CNN has reached out to Zambia’s foreign ministry for more information.
Thousands of Africans, mostly students, fled the onslaught of Russian troops when 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.