Semafor LogoJenna Moon

Body of Zambian man killed while fighting in Ukraine for Russia returns home

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: A global, insightful daily briefing. Read it now.

Title iconThe News

The body of Lemekhani Nyirenda was returned to Zambia on Sunday, more than two months after the 23-year-old was killed fighting in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian war crime prosecutor inspects a residential building damaged by a Russian military strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kherson, Ukraine December 1, 2022.
REUTERS/Anna Voitenko
Title iconKnow More

Nyirenda was studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, but was arrested in April 2020. He was serving a drugs-related sentence at a medium-security prison near Moscow.

He was recruited out of prison to fight for Russia by the Wagner Group, a mercenary organization founded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Wagner Group has recruited and deployed many Russian prisoners to the war’s front lines, promising them freedom from prison if they join.

Nyirenda was killed in September, but Zambian officials were only notified of his death in early November.