Ukraine crisis

A Zambian is the first prisoner recruited by Russia to die in Ukraine


The head of the Wagner mercenary group has confirmed that a Zambian prisoner who they recruited was killed whilst fighting for the military in Ukraine.

The confirmation came on Tuesday, November 29 that 23-year-old Nathan Lemekhandi Nyirenda had been killed. Nathan was sent to prison after being arrested on drug possession charges in 2020 whilst studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute.

According to a statement from Wagner, he was killed on the frontlines in Ukraine on September 22, the same month videos emerged of Wagner’s involvement in the war. Those videos showed Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin personally recruiting Russian prisoners and promising them their freedom in exchange for serving six months in Ukraine. Prigozhin has strong personal links with Putin and the Kremlin and his company is known to be active in parts of Africa.

In the statement Prigozhin claimed that Nyirenda, who was serving a nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence, agreed to become a mercenary as an act of gratitude for “Russia helping Africans to gain independence.”

He said Nathan told him: “PMC Wagner saves thousands of Africans, and if I go to war with you, this is probably the least I can pay for our debt.

“And if I stay alive, I will learn how to fight for my country.”

Zambian authorities have demanded Russia provide “urgent information on the circumstances” adding that they had not been informed of his death until mid-November.

Nathan’s family are said to be demanded answers to why the student was sent to the frontlines, when he was not a soldier nor was he Russian.

The news that a Zambian is the first prisoner to die after being recruited by the mercenary group Wagner, is the first confirmation that Russia has recruited prisoners to fight its war in Ukraine.

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Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at

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