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A Russian YouTuber could face 5 years in prison for playing Pokémon Go in a church

Ruslan Sokolovsky has criticized the Russian Orthodox Church before.


Michelle Jaworski


Short of endangering yourself or others around you, playing Pokémon Go in a place you probably shouldn’t might, at most, get you a stern look, but one Russian YouTuber may end up getting jail time for playing the game.

Last month, Ruslan Sokolovsky, a student based in Yekaterinburg, Russia, visited a Russian church and filmed himself playing Pokémon Go. While the game isn’t officially available in Russia yet, Sokolovsky—who has criticized the Russian Orthodox Church in his videos before—filmed it as a form of protest after a news report from state-owned channel Russia-24 said that players could be jailed for playing the game in churches. 

In the weeks since he uploaded the video, which he titled a “Pokémon Go Prank,” it’s been watched more than 946,000 times.

Police began to investigate Sokolovsky, who has more than 290,000 YouTube subscribers, soon after the video went online, and he was detained Sept. 2. Police seized his computer and a court ruled that he will be jailed for two months as police investigate charges of “inciting hatred” and “insulting religious freedoms.” That could lead to Sokolovsky facing five years in prison, the maximum sentence.

According to Vladimir Legoyda, a Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, Sokolovsky was arrested because the video was a provocation, not because he was playing Pokémon Go.

“It is clear that Mr. Sokolovsky was not a casual passerby, 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,” Legoyda said.

Those speaking out against Sokolovsky’s prison time are using the hashtag #свободусоколовскому (#FreeSokolovsky) on Vkontakte, Russia’s biggest social network, as well as Twitter to spread awareness to the case. The Russian punk band Pussy Riot tweeted out its support for Sokolovsky.

H/T BuzzFeed

The Daily Dot