In a bizzare set of events, truly a 2022 moment, in early February of this year three Russian teens were sentenced for blowing up a building in Minecraft. The teens, a 16-year old who was jailed for five years over a “terrorist plot” to blow up a Federal Security Services (FSB) building in Minecraft, and two others who had suspended sentences after pleading guilty, were all 14 when they were arrested in 2020. An NFT artist has now minted NFTs imbedded with the code of a blown up FSB building in Minecraft, along with releasing a video them blowing it up for the teens which they later turned into the 3D model NFT that has code allowing the buyer of the NFT to put it into their “minecraft world or meta space”. That artist is Brad Downey (@bigtimebrad on Instagram) who says he is creating the NFT with the proceeds going Ukrainians and organizers. He says:
“The idea that a government had turned a teenage gamer into a political prisoner (for thought-crime) and declared him a terrorist seemed like extreme mental gymnastics. In response to this story Jan and myself simply carried out the teenagers plans. Hoping to show how silly the whole action would look, Especially in childish blocky Minecraft aesthetics.”
According to The Moscow Times the three teens had recreated an FSB building in Minecraft and planned to destroy it, all which stemmed from evidence found on their phones after they were detained for posting political flyers in 2020. Nikita Uvarov, Denis Mikhailenko and Bogdan Andreyev were found guilty of “undergoing training for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities” on February 10, 2022.
Reportedly of the three, Uvarov received the harshest sentence, and will serve five years in a penal colony. Mikhailenko and Andreyev were given suspended sentences of 3 and 4 years, having previously pleaded guilty as opposed to Uvarov. However, they later claimed these admissions were made under duress. Uvarov similarly claimed that he was put under “mental and physical pressure” to plead guilty yet has maintained his innocence.
The claim that they actually had explosives and planned to use them on the real FSB building comes from “anonymous law enforcement officials” in 2020. However, this was not used in evidence when the case went to court in February of 2022, when the case relied solely upon footage found on the teens’ phones, including the Minecraft plot.
Before the case went to trial, the three teens were detained in the summer of 2020 for spreading political leaflets in support of a Moscow mathematician and anarchist, who at the time was on trial for vandalism. They had reportedly left leaflets at a local FSB building, which is Russia’s successor to its Soviet-era KGB. Their phones were taken, on which police discovered a plot to blow up a virtual FSB building they had created in Minecraft. Their phones also contained videos of the teens throwing Molotov cocktails at a wall and creating pyrotechnics, according to the Moscow Times.
The case is part of a wider pattern where teens are targeted by state security forces to create an atmosphere of fear among young people critical of the government, claim human rights activists via 24HTech. In March 2021, a leading Russian human rights organization, Memorial, classified the case against the three Kansk teens as political persecution.
The Guardian reports that 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 with electrodes and beaten to extract a confession.