Russian blogger faces jail time after playing Pokemon Go in church

Russian video blogger faces prison term for ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘insulting religious feelings’ after playing Pokemon Go in an Orthodox cathedral.

YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA (RUSLAN SOKOLOVSKIY) – Russian video blogger Ruslan Sokolovskiy, detained after posting a video of himself playing Pokemon Go in an Orthodox cathedral, was put under house arrest by the court in the city of Yekaterinburg on Friday (September 9).

Sokolovskiy was detained last week and charged with ‘inciting hatred’ and ‘insulting religious feelings’. He could face up to three years in jail if convicted.

In August 21-year-old Russian posted a video on his Youtube channel showing him walking into Yekaterinburg Orthodox cathedral “Church of All Saints” and catching Pokemons there using popular Pokemon Go application.

Sokolovskiy whose video channel had over 200.000 subscribers at that time, said he decided to catch Pokemons in an Orthodox church after hearing on the state television that such action could be considered a criminal offense.

“It is not normal, it is not right that a person can be jailed for such a minor thing. I believe it is not right. And I decided to prove it with my own example,” Sokolovskiy said after police launched an investigation against him following complaints by Orthodox believers.

Father Veniamin, an Orthodox priest with the Yekaterinburg diocese, said Sokolovskyi intention was to insult the church.

“The problem is that he did it on purpose, even though there were no Pokemons there. But it did not matter (for him), it was a reason to insult (the church),” he said.

Russian Orthodox Church insisted it did not seek punishment for Sokolovskiy.

According to the Russian criminal code, insulting religious feelings can be punished by up to three years in jail.

In 2012 three female members of anti-Putin punk rock band Pussy Riot were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred under the same article after performing a dance in Russia’s main cathedral. Two women spent almost two-year terms behind the bars before being pardoned.

Nintendo’s Pokemon Go has become an unexpected smash hit, using augmented reality and Google mapping to make animated characters appear in the real world, overlaid on the nearby landscape viewed through players’ mobile phone cameras.

Russian authorities went even further saying it can be illegal to play Pokemon Go in certain places, such as polling station, state border facilities, etc.