Being sentenced to prison for playing a video game sounds pretty rough, but apparently it can happen to you if you’re a kid in Russia.
Nikita Uvarov, who is 16 years old, was recently found guilty of “training for terrorist activities” by a Russian military court, after the teen plotted to blow up a virtual version of the FSB, the country’s domestic intelligence agency…while playing Minecraft. He has now been sentenced to five years in prison.
The Moscow Times reports that Uvarov and his two buddies, Bogdan Andreyev and Denis Mikhailenko, were arrested back in 2020 for a slew of activities that the government came to conclude were part of a dangerous plot. In addition to planning to blow up a virtual version of the FSB, the trio also distributed fliers meant to show support for Azat Miftakhov, a Russian anarchist who was arrested for vandalism in 2019. Authorities say they also experimented with improvised explosive devices, using them on abandoned buildings.
As a result of all this, the boys were recently found guilty of “undergoing training for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities,” and delivered prison sentences. Andreyev and Mikhailenko pleaded guilty and subsequently had their sentences suspended. Uvarov, meanwhile, maintained his innocence and was subsequently sent off to prison.
It’s not totally clear if the government’s contention is that the video game was used as some sort of virtual training exercise for actual terroristic acts, or if these kids just happened to be pretending to blow up Russia’s top domestic police agency. Minecraft, the wildly popular video game, is known for allowing players to build their own customisable structures. The Russian government has made it clear that it believes the teens weren’t just horsing around, but were actively planning something sinister.
However, The Guardian reports that this is the latest in a string of incidents in Russia wherein young people have been incarcerated on preemptive “terrorism” charges related to flimsy cases.
Uvarov has denied that he was actually planning to do anything violent. According to The Guardian, the teen during a recent hearing said, “For the last time in this court I want to say: I am not a terrorist.”