Police in Russia are investigating a game on social media which has been linked by the media to up to 130 suicides, mostly involving teenage girls. The "Blue Whale" game on Russian social media site Vkontakte (VK) reportedly involves setting participants a series of strange tasks culminating in suicide. However, some media outlets have cast doubt on the veracity of the claims.
On Sunday (26 February), 15-year-old Yulia Konstantinova and her friend, 16-year-old Veronika Volkova, fell to their deaths from the top of a 14-storey block of flats in the Irkutsk city of Ust-Ilimsk. Both had reportedly been playing Blue Whale and their final posts both finished with one word: "End." Yulia also posted an image of a blue whale.
It has been reported in local media that Yulia and Veronika - or "Nika" - were manipulated over a period of weeks by the game masters. Among 50 set tasks, participants must reportedly get up at 4.20am, watch horror films, and carve the image of a blue whale on their own skin. On the 50th day, the gamer is reportedly ordered to commit suicide or have their family killed.
In a statement following the deaths, the Russian Investigative Committee (RIC) said: "Investigators checked the scene, the homes of the minors, and interviewed relatives and friends of the victims, to establish the motive. Particular attention during the investigation of the criminal case will be given to the study of their social contacts on the internet."
In 2016 police arrested 21-year-old Phillip Budeikin, who was charged with organising eight "suicide groups". Following Budeikin's arrest, the number of suicides reportedly dropped but in recent weeks, in addition to the deaths of Yulia and Nika, a 14-year-old girl is believed to have died when she jumped under a train in Chita and a 15-year-old was critically injured after jumping from a fifth floor flat in Krasnoyarsk.
However, some media analysts have cast doubt on the claims, and according to Radio Free Europe not a single death has been definitively linked to the game. American urban myth debunking site snopes.com is also sceptical about the Blue Whale suicide phenomenon, which it currently rates as "unproven".
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