A Russian teenager on Thursday was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly planning to blow up a virtual Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) building created in the computer game Minecraft.
The ruling falls into a broader pattern under Russian 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 after the closed-door trial.
Two other defendants were cleared of criminal charges and handed suspended sentences because they cooperated with investigators, Chikov added.
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 practiced detonating them in abandoned buildings.
The teenagers initially faced more severe charges of "participating in a terrorist organization," but the case was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
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.
In August 2020, three young activists – who were accused of belonging to an anarchist group called "New Greatness" – were sentenced to 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 terrorism and other charges.
Arrested in 2017 and 2018, most of the men said they had been tortured in custody with electrodes and beaten to give a confession.