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Evgeny Prigozhin confirms Zambian student who died in Ukraine was recruited from prison by PMC Wagner
Russian businessman Evgeny Prigozhin has confirmed reports that Lemekhani Nyirenda, a Zambian citizen recently reported to have died in the war in Ukraine, was recruited from a Russian penal colony by PMC Wagner, the mercenary group Prigozhin founded back in 2014.
Prigozhin published his statement on the VKontakte page for Concord, one of his companies.
I remember this guy well. I spoke with him in the Tver region and asked him, “Why do you want [to join] this war? In a few years, you’ll be able to leave prison early; you’ll soon be home, where you’ll see your relatives. What are you going for? After all, the odds of dying are fairly high. Remember that.”
And his response was just what I expected. He said, “You Russians have been helping us Africans become independent for many years. When we were having trouble, you extended a hand, and you’re still doing so now. PMC Wagner has saved thousands of Africans, and if I go with you to war, that’s probably the very least I can do to repay our debts. And if I live, I will have learned how to fight for my Motherland. And one more thing. It’s a big honor for me; I only know about Wagner through hearsay, but [now] I can become one of you.
23-year-old Lemekhani Nyirenda’s death was first reported by the Zambian Foreign Ministry in mid-November. The agency said Nyirenda died “on the battlefield” on September 22.
Before his arrest, Lemekhani Nyirenda was a student at the Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute and worked part-time delivering food. In April 2020, he was sentenced to 9.5 years in prison after police found drugs in a package he was transporting.
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