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Russian teenager gets five years in prison in Minecraft ‘terrorism’ case

Members of the Clovis, N.M., Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics team handcuff a U.S. airman during a hostile threat exercise at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., June 20, 2012. (Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece/U.S. Air Force)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A court in Siberia has sentenced a 16-year-old boy to five years in prison in a high-profile terrorism case prompted by plans he had with two friends to add the building of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to the popular video game Minecraft to allow players to blow it up.

The First Eastern District Military Court in the Krasnoyarsk region sentenced Nikita Uvarov on February 10 after finding him guilty of illegal weapons possession and passing through training for implementation of a terrorist act, charges he has rejected since his arrest in fall 2020.

Two other defendants in the case were convicted of illegal weapons possession and handed suspended prison terms of three years and four years, Vladimir Ilkov, the lawyer for one of the two other defendants, told RFE/RL.

Prosecutors had sought nine years in prison for Uvarov and six years in prison for the other defendants.

The three boys were 14 when they were arrested in 2020 while distributing leaflets to support Azat Miftakhov, a mathematician, who was in custody at the time and later sentenced to six years in prison in January 2021 on terrorism charges that he and his supporters called politically motivated.

After their arrest, investigators confiscated their telephones and said later they found chats in the phone that “had proven” that the trio planned to add the FSB building to the Minecraft game and blow it up there.

The investigators also said that the boys criticized the FSB in the chats, read banned books, fabricated firecrackers, and blew them up in abandoned buildings in their native city of Kansk.

Uvarov refused to cooperate with investigators and spent 11 months in pretrial detention before he was released last year to finish the ninth grade at school, while his two co-defendants pleaded guilty and fully cooperated with the investigation.

In his final statement at the trial on February 9, Uvarov reiterated his previous comments rejecting the charges and added that if he is imprisoned, he “will serve the sentence with a clean conscience and dignity.”

“It was painful for me to see how my country oppresses people, civil rights activists, who want the best for the country and stand for its well-being. Now, unfortunately, I am experiencing myself the despotism of the unfair collaborators of the system,” Uvarov said.