Russian Man Convicted of Hate Crime for Playing Pokémon Go in Church

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By Kieran Corcoran | 3:42 am, May 12, 2017
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A Russian YouTuber has been convicted of a religious hate crime for playing Pokémon Go in church.

Ruslan Sokolovsky, 22, was convicted by a court in Ekaterinburg after posting a video of himself playing the game.

He recorded himself wandering around the inside of the Church of All Saints while playing the game on his iPhone.

Sokolovsky (pictured above) posted the video online in August 2016, at the height of the Pokémon Go craze:

He was arrested a few days later.

The video was posted as a deliberate rebuke to Russian officials who had warned there could be legal consequences to playing the game in sacred places.

It shows him catch a Poliwag, then a Zubat, while worshipers and clergy mill around the background. It has now been viewed on YouTube almost two million times.

In the footage, Sokolovsky rubbished the possibility that he could be punished for what he was doing.

He said the risk of arrest was “complete nonsense”, and asked: “Who could get offended if you’re just walking around with your smartphone in a church?”

Nonetheless, Sokolovsky found himself in court, accused of insulting believers and inciting religious hatred.

He pleaded not guilty but lost his case. He had been threatened with a real jail term, but ended up being given a suspended prison sentence instead, of three and a half years.

In an interview with the BBC’s Russian service after the trial he said he had apologized to believers for offending them, and that his video was “too cynical for Russian society”.

Pokémon Go has still not been officially launched in Russia, though users can get it on their phones via other methods, and the game still works there.

Russian state TV claimed that the game was a psy-op by the CIA, and while regional political leaders said it “reeks of Satanism”.