A Russian teenager has been sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly planning to blow up a virtual FSB security service building in the video 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”, the rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said on the messaging service 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.
They 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 had created in the popular block-building game Minecraft.
According to investigators, the teenagers were 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 these were dropped due to lack of evidence.
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 was handed prison time, he would 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.