A teenager allegedly behind an online death group targeting vulnerable children has been charged with double murder.
The deaths of a boy and girl in separate incidents but at the same railway station just three days apart are being linked to so-called Blue Whale groups on social media.
The FSB secret service and state investigators in Russia have contacted as many as 50 children amid fears the unnamed suspect was trying to coax kids into taking their own lives.
The 19-year-old from Yessentuki in Stavropol region, is being held in custody on suspicion of running the online groups where members are lured into playing sinister and dangerous “games”.
The Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement: “The detainee created a number of groups in a messenger, where participants passed various tasks, causing them to fall into a psychological trap where parents, family, and friends were criticised.
“Depression, violence to others, and dangerous ways out of difficult life situations were promoted.”
The man is accused of being behind the deaths in Lipetsk region of schoolgirl Maria, 14, on June 11 and Alexander, 16, three days later.
Both were hit by express trains at Dolgorukovo railway station.
He was riding his motorbike when he was killed.
The accused faces between eight and 20 years in jail if convicted.
Before she died, the girl – in tears and wearing a mask – had recorded a video in which she said she was a member of a Blue Whale death group with 524 members.
“I have run out of time,” Maria said in the video, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper citing law enforcement sources.
“A new wave is starting, there will be many victims.”
She said: “Please spread this information to stop this. I played. There are 524 of us.”
The committee – which probes serious crimes in Russia – said: “The organiser of these groups was exposed as soon as possible.
“He has already been charged.”
A video issued by law enforcement shows the man being interrogated.
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An investigative “task force” has questioned “more than 50 teenagers who were in the destructive groups and a wide range of witnesses”.
Searches have been conducted in ten regions of Russia.
The criminal investigation continues.
Several years ago a number of deaths of teenagers in Russia and other countries were attributed to notorious Blue Whale or similar online “games”.
Children are reported to be “brainwashed” by sick “mentors” to complete 50 steps – involving exhaustion and self harm – which eventually culminates in suicide.
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email email@example.com, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.