Blue Whale mastermind arrested in Russia

Updated: Jun 20, 2018, 16:17 IST | Agencies | Moscow

Police believe he was a "major and dangerous" perpetrator of the Blue Whale social media "game", although Nearonov has not confessed and insists he was just being "friendly" to the girls

Nikita Nearonov
Nikita Nearonov

A 22-year-old financial analyst is under investigation for masterminding a notorious online "game" encouraging vulnerable teenagers to commit suicide. Russian Nikita Nearonov is being probed over grooming 10 "underage" girls for death.

Police believe he was a "major and dangerous" perpetrator of the Blue Whale social media "game", although Nearonov has not confessed and insists he was just being "friendly" to the girls. In two of the 10 cases for which he has been charged, girls aged 14 and 17 are known to have survived. If convicted, he faces up to six years in jail relating to these alleged victims.

In eight other new cases, detectives have not made clear whether suspected victims are alive or dead. The lethal game involves brainwashing vulnerable teenagers over a period of 50 days, urging them to complete tasks such as watching horror movies or waking at strange hours and self-harming. Eventually exhausted and confused, they are told to commit suicide.

Investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta alleged that of 130 suicides of children in Russia between November 2015 and April 2016 almost all were "members of one group or other on the internet".

There have been no reported deaths in the UK but schools have warned parents about the game. Nearonov was described as a "very smart" computer expert who believed teenagers were "wicked" and did "not deserve to live", according to reports citing police.

Nearonov had a high-flying and well-paid job in Moscow as a financial analyst, say reports. Acting as a death group "curator" was his "hobby", said police. A 12-year-old girl is believed to be among the youngest victims of the game. There is no suggestion Nearonov is linked to her death.

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