Prank is not joy: who is behind the sabotage of teenagers on the railways

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At least 11 people, 10 of them teenagers, have recently been detained in different regions of the country for destroying property on the railway. The cases of most of them are qualified under a particularly serious article – “Sabotage”. According to it, even minors face up to 10 years in prison, and adults up to 20 years. Parents of teenagers may be affected by material sanctions – they will have to pay huge compensation for train delays and damaged objects. Is it possible to see in a series of similar crimes a system of why it was minors who became a tool in the hands of malefactors and who is more susceptible to the influence of recruiters – in the material of Izvestia.

Taken to jail

Over the past few months, at least 11 people have been arrested in Russia, who are suspected of destroying railway infrastructure. Similar cases were recorded in the Krasnodar Territory, Penza and Moscow regions. Moreover, in the vast majority of cases, the detainees are minors. All of them became victims of recruitment on social networks, Telegram channels and online game chats, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told Izvestia. He spoke about the schemes that are used to persuade minors to commit crimes.

The most common is the search for minors through opposition groups in social networks and instant messengers. After that, specially trained people are rubbed into their confidence, promising big money and no punishment. Or malefactors by means of manipulations reveal psychological problems and pump up mood of the teenager that he on emotions agreed to make the act of sabotage.

Photo: Global Look Press/dpa/Frank Rumpenhorst

– Children are “probing” for several days, if they do not make contact, then they are looking for the next ones. Those who agree are offered money – this is a kind of reward. Basically, they try to immediately attract a group, – said the interlocutor of Izvestia.

Most often they act through Telegram, where it is difficult to track individual personal correspondence of similar content due to the fact that not all accounts are tied to a phone number. They are also looking for potential performers in chats of online games.

For persuasiveness, teenagers are sent instructions on how not to get caught. However, according to the source, this does not help to avoid punishment in any way – the railways are equipped with video surveillance systems at all important sections. In addition, children are asked to film the result of their actions on video, and the switched on phone, as noted by the Izvestia source, always leaves a trail for law enforcement officers.

“Criminals literally bring schoolchildren to prison – they themselves often stay abroad or use services that allow them to hide their location,” our interlocutor emphasized.

Izvestia sent requests to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee, the FSB and Roskomnadzor with a request to comment on the trend, the number of such criminal cases and methods for identifying recruitment.

According to representatives of Roskomnadzor, personal data leaks are often used to put pressure on people and involve them in illegal activities. “There have been more than 140 leaks since the beginning of the NWO. About 600 million records with personal information of citizens got into free access. The main source of leaks is foreign resources, including social networks,” the department stressed.

Photo: Izvestia / Dmitry Korotaev

In addition, Roskomnadzor said that they are actively fighting information that calls for extremist, terrorist activities or justifies it. To date, at the initiative of Rosmolodezh, more than 37,000 such materials have been removed or blocked, and more than 465,200 such materials have been blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the ministry said.

Undermining Security

At least 11 suspects, 10 of whom are teenagers, are already facing real terms of imprisonment for sabotage on the railway.

In December 2022, four young people were detained on suspicion of sabotage on the Kuibyshev railway. Investigators believe that young people, of whom only one was over 18 years old, committed two arsons in Penza. The damage amounted to more than 600 thousand rubles.

As the Izvestia source clarified, the proposal to set fire to the relay cabinets was rejected by the youngest of the offenders. After completing the task, 40 thousand rubles were transferred to the 16-year-old teenager in two transfers.

According to this event, a case was first opened under the article “Intentional destruction or damage to property”, but later it was reclassified to “Sabotage”.

In January-February, in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Moscow Region, schoolchildren were again detained under the same article – a total of six. Some damaged the railroad tracks, while others burned a transformer near the tracks. It turned out that the teenagers also received the task to damage objects from unknown persons – they wrote to them in Telegram and offered money for this.

Photo: RIA Novosti / press service of the Governor of the Kursk region

On February 14, 2023, the actions of an 18-year-old resident of the Krasnodar Territory were reclassified under the article “Sabotage”. He, according to investigators, on September 4, 2022, using at least four Molotov cocktails prepared by him in advance, tried to destroy the railway sectioning post of the contact network of the railway section in the Kurganinsky district.

The article “Sabotage” is similar in composition to “Deliberate destruction or damage to property,” but the intent in these cases is different, said Vadim Bagaturia, a former prosecutor’s office investigator and lawyer.

– In case of sabotage, actions are aimed at undermining the economic or defense security of the country. And in case of deliberate damage, the motives can be different, ”he explained in an interview with Izvestia.

According to the expert, the mere fact that young people agreed to perform tasks from unknown persons can already qualify as “sabotage”.

Damage to relay cabinets can lead to disruption or shutdown of traffic lights that drivers are guided by, said transport and logistics expert Yakov Gurevich.

“If the staff did not notice and eliminate the problem in time, then there are risks for trains to get into an emergency situation. When the transformer is destroyed, the control systems may well turn off, but in general, backup power is provided for such cases,” the expert explained.

Minimum 10 years

The age threshold for bringing to criminal responsibility under the article “Sabotage” is 16 years, the chairman of the Kurbalov, Gabdulin, Boguslavsky and Partners Bar Association Yevgeny Kurbalov explained to Izvestia. However, depending on the circumstances, a criminal case may also be initiated under other articles, for example, “Act of terrorism”.

Photo: Izvestiya/Zurab Javakhadze

In case of a particularly serious crime, which includes “Sabotage”, the limit of the imposed punishment is 20 years. But for minors, it is halved – up to 10 years in prison, Vadim Bagaturia added.

  • If a teenager agreed to complete a task from someone, this can already be qualified as a group crime, the punishment for him is stricter. The one who asked to commit a crime is the organizer, and the teenager himself will become the performer, the expert said.

Another very serious thing is compensation for real damages. After the end of the trial, the parents of the convicts will be forced to pay huge sums as part of the civil lawsuit filed further, Yevgeny Kurbalov specified.

  • It happens that the amount of damage as a result of some petty hooliganism turns out to be simply colossal. This may well completely destroy the well-being and financial stability of the convict’s family,” the lawyer emphasized.

At the age of 21, young people have not yet strengthened the psyche and they may not fully calculate what the results of their actions will be, child psychologist Natalia Naumova told Izvestia. These adolescents have not yet fully developed the emotional-volitional sphere.

Teenagers are sure that nothing will happen to them. And when they begin to persuade them, they inspire thoughts that their act will cause the respect of the environment. If the emotional-volitional sphere is fully developed, then the teenager will immediately connect critical thinking and risk analysis,” she emphasized.

In this regard, adolescents who have psychological problems are at risk. For example, attention deficit disorder, sometimes combined with hyperactivity. Also, according to the expert, children who are not accepted by society or feel like outcasts can fall for the tricks of recruiters.

Photo: Global Look Press/picture alliance/Frank May

“They agree to risky things because they think they will feel more important that way. Especially if they have money, the psychologist explained.

They can also persuade a teenager with threats – when at first he agreed, and then decided to refuse. Or deliberately tease his age-related maximalism with the phrases: “You can’t do anything,” “You won’t succeed.”

“At this age, teenage rebellion is triggered, and manipulative criminals play it very well,” she explained.

In order to protect your children, it is worth establishing trusting relationships with them, as well as paying attention to changes in behavior, psychologist Natalya Naumova advised.

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