The alleged mastermind behind a suicide cult targeting vulnerable children through social media has been arrested in Russia.
Ilya Sidorov, 26, is accused of encouraging youngsters to self-harm and kill themselves in a twisted game likened to the “Blue Whale challenge” that has been linked to more than 130 deaths.
Children who join the game are told to cut themselves, watch horror films, and go without sleep as they carry out a series of “tasks” apparently aimed at damaging their mental health.
On the 50th day of the “challenge” they are told to commit suicide.
Mr Sidorov is said to have recruited up to 32 schoolchildren to his group before his dramatic arrest in Moscow.
The “humble postman” was filmed sobbing as police questioned him over claims he challenged a 13-year-old girl to “jump under a metro train”.
He is being held in the Chelyabinsk region in the Urals as investigations continue and could face up to five years in prison.
Russian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Colonel Irina Volk said Mr Sidorov was tracked down after a 14-year-old girl attempted suicide earlier this year.
She told the Mail Online: “Five mobile phones, a tablet, and several SIM cards were confiscated during the search.
“The suspect clarified that he is the administrator of a so-called suicide group that had 32 members, all of them under age.
“He assigned them tasks aimed at inuring themselves in order to incite suicide. The suspect has been detained and taken to Chelyabinsk.”
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation
1/11 Paul Manafort
Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests.
2/11 Mike Flynn
Mr Flynn was named as Trump's national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.
3/11 Sergey Kislyak
Mr Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump's campaign with Russia.
4/11 Roger Stone
Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton - which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.
5/11 Jeff Sessions
The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
6/11 Carter Page
Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.
7/11 Jeffrey "JD" Gorden
Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.
8/11 Jared Kushner
Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.
9/11 James Comey
Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey's firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.
10/11 Preet Bharara
Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney's across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump's favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump's campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump's assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.
11/11 Sally Yates
Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump's pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump's first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russia.
Philipp Budeikin, 21, was arrested in May and accused of running a similar suicide cult known as “Blue Whale”, which has gained notoriety on Instagram.
The group could be linked to more than 130 suicides in Russia in the space of six months, according to investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
The deaths of 15-year-old Yulia Konstantinova and 16-year-old Veronika Volkova are being investigated by state investigators in Krasnoyarsk, a city east of Moscow.
Konstantinova had left a note saying “End” on her social page, and earlier in the day posted a picture of a blue whale.
Her friend Volkova posted a similar message, with the worlds “sense is lost…End”.
Police in the UK have issued warnings about online suicide groups targeting teenage social media users.
If you are feeling vulnerable, upset or suicidal there is always someone available to talk and help.
You can contact the Samaritans 24 hours a day for free via their website or phone line 116123
If you're LGBT and in need of someone to talk to, Switchboard LGBT offers advice and help every day from 10am to 10pm on their website and on 0300 330 0630.
Alternatively, if you suspect a young person might be feeling suicidal, you can call Childline for help and advice on 0800 1111.
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- online death cult
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- kill themself
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