A Russian YouTuber was found guilty Thursday of inciting hatred and insulting religious believers after filming himself playing Pokémon Go inside a church. Ruslan Sokolovsky has avoided a prison sentence, instead receiving a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.
Sokolovsky was visibly relieved after the sentence was announced by Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak, who had said the 21-year-old’s videos showed his “disrespect for society,” and ruled that he “intended to offend religious sentiments.”
The judge compares Pokemon-catching blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky to those who committed mass repressions against religious people. pic.twitter.com/RO7TSaoUG0
— X Soviet (@XSovietNews) May 11, 2017
“Without the support from reporters, I would possibly have been given a real prison sentence,” Sokolovsky said after the verdict was handed down.
Sokolovsky, who has over 300,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, filmed himself playing the game in August 2016, at the height of the Pokémon Go craze. The game uses augmented reality technology to overlay digital content onto the real world – meaning players have to walk to different locations to catch the Pokémon.
The video, which has now been watched almost 2 million times, shows Sokolovsky outside the Church of All Saints in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg. In the clip, Sokolovsky refers to news reports warning people not to play the game in the church, but says: “How can one offend by entering a church with a smartphone? I decided to just catch some Pokémon in church because, why not? I believe it’s both safe and not prohibited by law. Let’s go.”
— amnestypress (@amnestypress) May 11, 2017
Unlike many other parts of the world, Russia has not embraced the Pokémon Go craze and the game has never been officially launched there. Last year communications minister Nikolai Nikiforov even told the Moscow Times he suspected “U.S. intelligence services might have contributed to this app.”
Ruslan Sokolovsky who caught a pokemon in a church got 3.5 years of probation.
not prison though – and it's already great news.
— Pussy Riot (@pussyrrriot) May 11, 2017
Cover: Sipa USA via AP