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Russian teen jailed for 5 years over 'terrorism' plot to blow up virtual spy HQ on Minecraft

File- Microsoft's "Minecraft" built specifically for HoloLens at the Xbox E3 2015 briefing before Electronic Entertainment Expo, June 15, 2015, in LA.
File- Microsoft's "Minecraft" built specifically for HoloLens at the Xbox E3 2015 briefing before Electronic Entertainment Expo, June 15, 2015, in LA.   -   Copyright  Damian Dovarganes/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press.
By Euronews and AFP

A Russian teenager has been sentenced 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.

Nikita Uvarov, 16, was sentenced to five years in prison by a Siberian military court for "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.

For the last time in this court I want to say: I am not a terrorist.
Nikita Uvarov

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 a lack of evidence.

In his last words in court, reported by the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Uvarov spoke about the 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.

It is not the first time in recent years that young Russians receive prison sentences for controversial and preemptive terrorism charges.

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 Vladimir 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 and beaten to extract a confession.