‘Putin’s chef’ says Zambian lag killed in Ukraine volunteered ‘to thank Russia’

The head of the feared Wagner Group mercenaries admitted that a Zambian student killed in Ukraine was recruited from a Russian prison.

Nathan Lemekhandi Nyirenda, 23, was killed while fighting for the Kremlin-linked mercenary force on September 22.

That was the same month that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group known as "Putin's chef", was filmed touring Russian prisons, looking for men to send to Ukraine with the promise of freedom if they served six months.

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Nyirenda was serving a nine-and-a-half-year prison sentence in Russia after he was convicted on drug possession charges in 2020 while studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute.

In a statement, Prigozhin said that the student agreed to fight in Ukraine to pay Russia back for "helping Africans to gain independence".

“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,” Prigozhin quoted Nyirenda as telling him.

Nyirenda's relatives are calling on Russia to “urgently provide information on the circumstances” surrounding the young man's battlefield death.

They want to know why he was sent to the frontline in Ukraine.

Zambian authorities said their Russian counterparts did not inform them about his passing until mid-November, two months after the fact.

The Wagner Group is a private paramilitary organisation acting at Putin's behest. Their men are paid more than normal Russian soldiers and have fought for Putin in conflicts all over the world including Syria and Libya.

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