Ruslan Sokolovsky arrested pokemon go

Screengrab via Sokolovsky/YouTube

Russian man found guilty of ‘inciting religious hatred’ for playing Pokémon Go in church

A judge found his actions criminally 'disrespectful.'

 

Sarah Weber

Internet Culture

Published May 11, 2017   Updated May 24, 2021, 2:42 pm CDT

A 22-year-old Russian man has been convicted of “inciting religious hatred” after filming himself playing Pokémon Go during a church service in August.

Ruslan Sokolovsky was detained by Russian officials after he uploaded the video recorded at the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg, Russia, to his YouTube channel. A judge deemed comments Sokolovsky made in the video “disrespectful” and “intended to offend religious sentiments.”

Sokolovsky, who pleaded not guilty, was sentenced to a suspended three-and-a-half years in prison. Following his conviction Thursday, he told the BBC he was relieved he would not have to serve prison time. He also apologized for offending religious people, saying his video was “too cynical for Russian society.”

The video in question has been viewed almost 2 million times.

“You know, I didn’t catch the rarest Pokémon that you could find there—Jesus,” Sokolovsky said, according to a translation of the video by the Washington Post. “They said it doesn’t even exist, so I’m not really surprised.”

According to the BBC, Sokolovky appeared to use the video to criticize local reports suggesting people could be violating Russian law by playing the popular app game in church during the height of the Pokémon Go craze.

“Who could get offended if you’re just walking around with your smartphone in a church?” he said.

Civil rights groups, including Amnesty International, have condemned the court’s decision. Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, called the case “another assault on freedom of expression” in Russia.

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*First Published: May 11, 2017, 4:49 pm CDT