Lemekani Nyirenda’s body which arrived in Zambia on Sunday, 11 December 2022 is still lodged at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) mortuary in Lusaka, almost a month since it arrived in the country.

With results of the mandatory post-mortem still pending release, disturbing details of the Nyirenda debacle are slowly beginning to emerge.

For instance, is the body purported to be that of Nyirenda really the one being closely guarded at the UTH mortuary? Furthermore, is there a body at all?

A source has told MakanDay that one of the reasons for the delay in closing the Nyirenda case could be linked to the family’s desire to determine whether “the pieces of bones assembled in the coffin are truly those of Nyirenda”.

The 23-year-old former Zambian student died fighting for Russia at the Ukraine battlefront in the ongoing war, after he was recruited by the Wagner Group, a private military company that has been described as a network of mercenaries, or a de facto private army of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nyirenda was a second year Nuclear Engineering student at Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI). He was serving a nine year prison sentence for a drug possession offense committed in 2020.

While serving his sentence at Tyer Medium Security Prison on the outskirts of Moscow, he was recruited to fight in the Russia-Ukraine war, without the knowledge of Zambian government or his family in Zambia.

Russia surrendered Nyirenda’s body to the Zambian embassy in Moscow and it was sent to Lusaka in December last year. It was immediately taken to the UTH for the forensic pathologist to conduct the legal death investigations.

UTH concluded the legal investigations and surrendered the body to a private funeral service provider, CC Funeral Services.

A check by MakanDay at the mortuary revealed that the ‘body’ is still lodged at the UTH mortuary under the care of CC Funeral Services.

A source who chose to remain anonymous disclosed that Nyirenda’s family were not convinced that the skeleton received from Russia was that of their relative.

The source further disclosed that the family plans to bury their son in Palabana area in Chongwe, where they own a farm.

It has also been revealed that a DNA test was carried out in South Africa but the results have not been accessed by MakanDay.

Nyirenda was killed by Ukrainian forces on 22 September last year. He was recruited by the Wagner Group, a private military company that operates outside the Russian law, as private military contractors are prohibited in that country.

Zambia’s Ambassador to Russia Shadreck Luwita, accompanied the body from Moscow and is reported to have brought‘ compensation’ to the family from the Wagner Group.

On 14 December 2022, Russian Ambassador to Zambia Azim Yarakhmedov disclosed to Zambia Daily Mail in Kitwe, that gratuity owed to Nyirenda was handed over to Ambassador Luwita in Moscow.

He also disclosed that the Wagner Group had awarded Nyirenda for his “bravery” but the Zambia envoy refused to deliver the medals to the family.

He hoped that his government would one day deliver the awards directly to the Nyirenda family.

Yarakhmedov also confirmed that Nyirenda was in Ukraine with the infamous Wagner Group when he met his death.