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Russian Wagner mercenaries targeted at hotel, governor says

Members of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group were reportedly killed following an attack by Ukrainian armed forces on a hotel where many were based in a city in the Russian-occupied Lugansk region, according to the region’s Ukrainian governor. .

The exiled governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said in an interview with Ukrainian television on Sunday that Ukraine had launched an attack on a hotel in the city of Kadiivka, west of the region’s main center of Luhansk. Photos posted on Telegram channels showed a building largely reduced to rubble.

“They had a little pop up there, right where the Wagner headquarters was located,” Haidai said.

“A large number of those who were there died,” he said.

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Russia’s Defense Ministry was not immediately available for comment and the Reuters news agency could not independently verify the information.

A section of the Ukrainian media quoted local officials as saying the hotel had been closed for some time, while the Russian state news agency TASS said on its Telegram channel that a hotel in Stakhanov, the Russian name for Kadiivka, was destroyed by a Ukrainian HIMARS missile attack. and rescuers were clearing the debris, according to a local official.

Haidai did not give casualty figures, but said those who survived the attack faced inadequate medical services to treat them.

“I am sure that at least 50 percent of those who managed to survive will die before receiving medical attention,” he said. “This is because even in our Luhansk region, equipment has been stolen.”

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Haidai previously reported attacks by Ukrainian forces on other targets in the Lugansk region, including Wagner’s headquarters in the city of Popasna in August.

The Wagner Group, a brutal mercenary fighting force aiming to advance Russia’s military interests around the world, operates in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and Mali and has been accused of numerous rights violations, including torture and murder. .

Controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wagner opened its first official headquarters in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg in early November.

People visit the PMC Wagner Center, which is a project implemented by entrepreneur and founder of the Wagner private military group Yevgeny Prigozhin, during the official opening of the office block in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on November 4, 2022.
Visitors to the Wagner Center on its opening day in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on November 4, 2022 [File: Igor Russak/Reuters]

The European Union has accused Wagner, whose members are mostly former military personnel, of human rights abuses, and the United States and the EU have sanctioned Prigozhin for his role in the group. In 2021, the EU said the Wagner Group was responsible for abuses, including torture and extrajudicial killings.

On Sunday, the body of 23-year-old Zambian student Lemekani Nyirenda, who died while fighting for Wagner in Ukraine, arrived at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the capital Lusaka.

Nyirenda was studying nuclear engineering in Russia when he was convicted of drug offenses in April 2020 and sentenced to nine years in prison. He was later pardoned through a special amnesty on the condition that he take part in the war in the Ukraine and die while fighting.

In November, Wagner’s boss Prigozhin admitted that he recruited Nyirenda from prison, claiming the Zambian voluntarily went to fight Ukraine.

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Florence Nyirenda, mother of Lemekhani Nyireda, is comforted by relatives at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia, Sunday, December 11, 2022. The body of a 23-year-old Zambian student who died while fighting for the Russian army in the war in Ukraine has been returned home.  The body of Lemekani Nyirenda, who was studying nuclear engineering in Russia before joining the army, arrived at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka on Sunday.  (AP Photo/Salim Dawood)
Florence Nyirenda, mother of Lemekhani Nyireda, is comforted by relatives at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia, on December 11, 2022. [Salim Dawood/AP Photo]

Zambian Foreign Minister Stanley Kakubo said Friday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told him by phone that Nyirenda was pardoned on August 23, 2022 to allow him to join the army.

“We have been informed that Russia allows the prisoners the opportunity to receive a pardon in exchange for participating in the special military operation,” Kakubo said, using Russia’s description of the invasion of Ukraine.

According to Nyirenda’s father, his son was serving a nine-year prison sentence outside Moscow for a drug-related offense when he was “recruited” to fight.

Russia has also informed Zambia that the money Wagner owes Nyirenda, along with all documentation related to his amnesty, conscription and death, will be handed over to a Zambian representative who will accompany the body, the minister said.

Zambia will work to ensure that nothing like this ever happens to a Zambian studying in Russia and that there are no other Zambians in Russian prisons, Kakubo said.

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