Two children among Russians questioned over ‘terrorism’ posts

By Thomson Reuters Mar 28, 2024 | 11:33 AM

By Lucy Papachristou

LONDON (Reuters) – Two children are among at least six people who have been detained or questioned in Russia over online comments viewed as “justifying terrorism” since last week’s deadly attack on a concert hall, according to local authorities and Russian media.

Security services have been on high alert since the March 22 gun rampage at the Crocus City Hall near Moscow that killed at least 143 people. The Federal Security Service (FSB) has urged people to tell the authorities immediately if they hear of any calls to carry out attacks in Russia.

Both President Vladimir Putin and the FSB chief have said they believe Ukraine was involved in the attack, for which the Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility. Ukraine has denied any involvement.

The authorities’ vigilance has extended to children as well as to adults.

Police in Siberia brought in a 9-year-old girl for questioning after they said she messaged a woman online and asked her to kill people for money, a local branch of Russia’s interior ministry said on Wednesday.

“Hello, will you kill people for 500,000 roubles ($5,400)?,” the girl wrote to the unnamed woman via a messenger app, according to screenshots of the conversation posted online by the interior ministry branch in Tuva, which borders Mongolia.

The girl, whom authorities did not name, frantically apologised after the woman threatened to “get the FSB involved.”

The 9-year-old said during her interrogation that she wrote the messages “out of boredom”, the interior ministry said.

Her mother was charged with improper upbringing of a minor and the girl was placed on a list that allows authorities to monitor people’s activities as a counterterrorism measure.

Separately, a 16-year-old boy was detained in another city in Tuva for calling on social networks for “illegal actions” at a cinema, local media reported. They said the boy told authorities he “wanted to joke and scare people”.

Adults, too, have been punished for online comments related to the attack.

A man was detained at a St. Petersburg airport before boarding a flight to Armenia after he posted on social media, referring to the concert venue: “Why Crocus and not the Kremlin?”

He was charged on Wednesday with justifying terrorism, which carries a sentence of up to seven years, the RBC newspaper reported.

($1 = 92.5120 roubles)

(Reporting and writing by Lucy Papachristou; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Bill Berkrot)