Russian teen given five years in Minecraft ‘terrorism’ case

A military court in Siberia sentenced Uvarov to five years in a penal colony on charges of ‘training for terrorist activities’, rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said on Telegram. — Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

MOSCOW: Russia on Feb 10 sentenced a teenager to five years in prison for allegedly planning to blow up a virtual building of the FSB security service created in the computer game Minecraft.

The ruling falls into a broader pattern under President Vladimir Putin in which young Russians are put behind bars on controversial and preemptive terrorism charges.

A military court in Siberia sentenced 16-year-old Nikita Uvarov to five years in a penal colony on charges of “training for terrorist activities”, rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said on Telegram.

Two other defendants were cleared of criminal charges and handed suspended sentences because they cooperated with investigators, Chikov added.

The hearing was held behind closed doors.

Uvarov and two other teenagers in the Siberian city of Kansk were detained in the summer of 2020 for spreading leaflets in support of a Moscow mathematician and anarchist activist who was on trial for vandalism.

The trio put one of the leaflets on a local building of the FSB, Russia’s powerful domestic security agency and successor of the Soviet-era KGB.

Police took their phones and said they found an exchange about plans to blow up an FSB building that they created in the popular block-building game Minecraft.

According to investigators the trio was also learning to make improvised explosive devices and practised detonating them in abandoned buildings.

The teenagers initially faced more severe charges of “participating in a terrorist organisation”, but the case was dropped due to lack of evidence.

‘I am not a terrorist’

In his last words in court, reported by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Uvarov spoke about pressure from authorities during the investigation and denied planning to blow anything up.

He pleaded not guilty and said that if he is handed real prison time, he will serve it “with a clear conscience and dignity”.

“For the last time in this court I want to say: I am not a terrorist,” he said.

“I just want to finish my studies, get an education and go somewhere far away from here, not to annoy anyone from the special services,” the teen said.

The sentence was condemned by Russian opposition figures on social media.

“Sick sadists imprison children for having fun in a game,” Lyubov Sobol, an ally of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, said on Twitter.

In August 2020, three young activists – who were accused of belonging to an anarchist group called “New Greatness” – were sentenced to time in jail for allegedly plotting to overthrow Putin’s government.

Four others were handed suspended sentences in a case initiated by the FSB that supporters called fabricated.

In February 2020, seven young anarchists and anti-fascists were sentenced to between six and 18 years in prison on terror and other charges.

Arrested in 2017 and 2018, most of the men said they had been tortured in custody with electrodes and beaten to confess. – AFP

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