A Tanzanian national who went to Russia as a student before joining the war in Ukraine as a soldier for the mercenary Wagner Group died in October last year but Moscow hid this information from his family until last week, sauce.co.ke has reliably established.
Tarimo Nemes Raymond who hails from Dar es Salaam was a student at the Moscow Technological University. He was arrested some time in 2020 for an unknown crime and sent to prison. No one knows the exact time he was arrested, what crime he had committed or the length of his sentence as he suddenly cut communication with his family and friends back home.
“The last time I saw him was in 2020 during a meeting for the Chadema party. He said he will be going back to Russia. I have tried to look for him ever since with no luck,” one of his friends whose identity we have hidden because of the dangerous nature of the situation told us.
We now know that while in a Russian prison sometime in July last year, Tarimo was given a chance to get his freedom if he accepted to fight for the Wagner Group in Ukraine for six months.
The Wagner Group is a private Russian paramilitary unit of mercenaries owned and financed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with ties to president Vladimir Putin. The group operates beyond the law in Russia, where private military contractors are officially forbidden.
Its contractors have however taken part in various conflicts around the world—including the civil wars in Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic (CAR), and Mali, often fighting on the side of forces aligned with the Russian government.
Sometime in July last year various intelligence agencies reported that Wagnar had began recruiting prisoners to fight in the Bakhmut region in Ukraine. The inmates were offered 200,000 rubles (Sh361,000) and amnesty for six months of “voluntary service
Facing a long prison sentence, Tarimo joined the Wagnar Group as an untrained soldier. Like other inmates he received a two-week training and sent to war. He did not last long. His unit came under heavy fire from Ukranian forces leading to his death on October 24.
Sources have told us that the Russian government hid this information from Tarimos family until January 7. His memorial service was held yesterday at a chapel in Goryachiy Klyuch where Wagner Group awarded him a Medal of Valour “for his courage in combat.”
The body of the 31-year-old is still in Russia and is yet to be repatriated to his home country for burial. The Tanzanian government is also yet to comment on the matter altogether but intelligence sources say, it is set to blow in the coming days
According to the United States Pentagon, Wagner has at least 50,000 mercenaries fighting in Ukraine. A good number of these are prisoners who “have nothing to lose.” Their lack of training notwithstanding, Russia is sending thousands of them to the front line to cover its soldiers leading to heavy causalities.
Just last month, the remains of another African student Lemekhani Nyirenda were sent back to his home in Zambia after he met his death in the Ukranian war fields. Nyirenda, 23, was studying nuclear engineering at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI).
Like Tarimo he had also been imprisoned on drug charges. He died on September 22 but it took another two months before Russia informed the Zambian embassy in Moscow about his death. They did so on November 9. It also remains unclear what charges Nyirenda was convicted of.
Wagner founder Evgeny Prigozhin however claimed to have spoken to Nyirenda, who allegedly told him he had volunteered because: “You, Russian, helped us Africans gain independence. When it was difficult for us, you stretched out a hand to us and continue to do this now.”
“Wagner is saving thousands of Africans; going to war with you is paying back for at least some of our debt to you,” Prigozhin said in a November 29 post on the Russian social media platform VKontakte.
Nyirenda’s family has however insisted that he was coerced. They also say he was wrongfully convicted; he had been working as a courier to support himself while studying in Moscow but was stopped and searched by the police, who found a package he was carrying with drugs in it.