The Zambian foreign ministry said Monday that a Zambian student imprisoned in Russia was killed during a battle in Ukraine.
The student was a 23-year-old who had been sponsored by the Zambian government to study nuclear engineering at the Moscow Institute of Engineering Physics.
The man was identified as Lemikani Nathan Nyirenda by Zambian Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo in statement.
Nerenda was convicted in 2020 of unspecified offenses in Russia and imprisoned for nine years and six months. He was serving his sentence in the Tair medium security prison on the outskirts of Moscow,” according to the statement.
The Zambian Foreign Ministry said it had been informed of his death “on 9 November 2022…on the battlefront in 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 light of this very sad development, the Government of Zambia 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 conscripted to fight in Ukraine and thus lost his life.”
In August, a CNN investigation discovered that Russia was recruiting prisoners into its military in exchange for their freedom.
It is believed that hundreds of prisoners in Russian prisons have been approached as Moscow races to reinforce its forces, which have suffered heavy losses since the war began.
It remains unclear how many Africans have been drafted into the Russian army since its months-long invasion of Ukraine.
The ministry says the man’s remains were taken to the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don for repatriation to Zambia.
CNN has contacted the Zambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for more information.
Thousands of Africans, mostly students, fled the onslaught of Russian forces as they marched into Ukraine in February.
However, many international students report facing segregation and racism at the border. Many of the escaped students were later evacuated to their various countries by their respective governments.