Russian Blogger Charged With 'Inciting Hatred' After Playing Pokémon Go in Church

By Hudson Hongo on at

On Saturday, Russian officials announced that atheist vlogger Ruslan Sokolovsky has been detained for two months for “inciting hatred” and “insulting religious feelings” after posting a video of himself playing Pokémon Go inside a historic cathedral. He reportedly faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

In July, state-owned news channel Russia-24 warned that Pokémon Go users could be jailed under Russia’s strict anti-blasphemy laws if they played the game in church. In protest, Sokolovsky filmed himself catching Pokémon in Yekaterinburg’s Church of All Saints and shared the footage on YouTube.

According to Meduza, police began investigating Sokolovsky soon after, finally detaining the 22-year-old vlogger this weekend. In a statement, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda claimed it was the provocative nature of Sokolovsky’s video — and not playing the game itself — that led to his arrest.

“It is clear that Mr. Sokolovsky was not a casual passer-by, who in a fit of gaming passion went into the temple, but rather a well-known young blogger in the city, who works in the style of Charlie Hebdo,” wrote Vladimir Legoyda on Facebook.

However, Jaroslav Nilov, head of the State Duma’s religious affairs committee, said that investigators have not proven that Sokolovsky violated Russia’s anti-blasphemy law and called his detention unnecessary.

“In my opinion, catching Pokémon is not an insult to religious feelings, because it is simply the use of a mobile phone application within religious buildings,” Nilov told RIA Novosti. [Vocativ]