A Russian YouTube gamer is faced with five years of jail time for playing Pokemon Go in the church. Ruslan Sokolovsky was recorded catching Pokemon in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg. The footage was released at the beginning of August. The Pokemon Go fever was at its peak back then.
As the video begins, the gamer talks about news reports which warn players can be sent to jail under the Russian law if they play Pokemon Go in the church.
Sokolovski then asks himself how can the church be offended because of someone entering it with a smartphone. He says he decided to catch Pokemon as he had no reason not to.
He mentions he thinks it’s safe and not banned by the law. After he posted the video on the 11th of August, the police started an investigation.
Authorities released a statement on Saturday. They point out that the 21-year-old was accused of inciting hatred and offending religious sensibility. So he’s been in custody for two months. Officials note that the punishment could be up to five years in jail.
Sokolovski faces the same accusations that put two women from the Pussy Riot punk band in jail for two years, back in 2012.
Sokolovsky has a big fanbase on YouTube. He’s got 300,000 subscribers. He previously recorded videos where he criticized the Russian orthodox church. The footage was highly publicized by the Russian media, so he did follow-ups where he discussed the reactions.
Some Russian officials expressed their opinions to the news of Sokolovsky’s detention.
A spokesman for the Russian orthodox church, Vladimir Legoyda posted to his Facebook page a message where he calls Sokolovsky a famous young blogger, who “works in the style of Charlie Hebdo.” He also claims that the man was not arrested for playing Pokemon Go.
Yevgeny Roizman, mayor of Yekaterinburg – the town of the incident, stated that the arrest “was a disgrace.” He believes that there is no reason to arrest someone for “idiocy.”
Supporters of the YouTube vlogger have started a Twitter campaign to release him, #FreeSokolovsky. Pussy Riot members are among the people who support his release.
Russian authorities don’t see anything good in the game Pokemon Go. It has been criticized by authorities. Nikolai Nikiforov, communications minister believes the app was made by “intelligence services.”
Some St. Petersburg activists want to play Pokemon Go in the Kazan Cathedral. The opposition also supports the campaign to release Sokolovsky.
While some Christian churches have welcomed Pokemon Go players, as a way to connect with the young, others have been more restrictive.