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Russian businessman says Zambian student who died in Ukraine fought with military group – SABC News

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Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Tuesday that a Zambian student who died in Ukraine fought for his private military group, Wagner.

Russia had earlier told Zambia that Lemehani Nyirenda had been killed on the battlefield in Ukraine in September, prompting Zambia to ask Moscow for more details and an explanation of how he ended up in the war.

Nyirenda’s father said he was serving a nine-year prison sentence on the outskirts of Moscow for drugs when he was “called up” to fight. His family said it was unclear how he was recruited or by whom.

Prigogina’s Concord catering group said on Tuesday that Nyirenda had been recruited by Wagner. Prigozhin and other Wagner representatives visited Russian prisons, offering amnesty in exchange for signing up to fight on Russia’s side in Ukraine.

“Yes, I remember this guy well,” Prigozhin replied in writing to a journalist’s question whether the Zambian fought on the Wagner side.

Prigozhin said that Nyrenda died “a hero” and “was one of the first to break into the enemy trenches on September 22.”

Reuters was unable to verify the circumstances of Nyerenda’s death and Prigozhin’s claim that he voluntarily joined Wagner.

For years denying his ties to Wagner and operating in the shadows, Prigozhin has become a more assertive presence on the Russian domestic scene in recent months, criticizing the military leadership, admitting he set up Wagner and admitting meddling in the US election.

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