Russian Vlogger Faces Seven Years in Prison For Playing Pokemon GO in a Church

A Russian video blogger faces a sentence of up to seven years in prison for playing Pokemon GO in a church.

Ruslan Sokolovsky, a 22-year-old YouTube vlogger, published a video last year in which he was shown playing the popular mobile game Pokemon GO in a Russian Orthodox church in Yekaterinburg. The video, which went on to achieve over 1.6 million views, saw the vlogger intentionally run afoul of Russia’s incredibly strict rules in regards to offending religious believers. After it was forwarded to the police Sokolovsky was detained, with his trial beginning this week.

Sokolovsky has been accused of inciting religious hatred, the same charge levelled at Pussy Riot for their performance in a Russian church. The band’s imprisonment made international news, with two of its members serving 21 months behind bars. Sokolovsky faces a maximum sentence of 7 and a half years if convicted.

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An atheist, Sokolovsky pokes fun at religion during the video, saying: “I didn’t catch the rarest Pokemon that you could find there – Jesus. But I couldn’t help it. They say it doesn’t exist, so I’m not really surprised.” Discussing the reasoning behind his decision to record the video, Sokolovsky says that he believes it’s “bulls***” that Russian citizens can be imprisoned or fined for using a smartphone in church, adding: “Why the f*** would they lock you up for that?”

However, now Sokolovsky faces a severe punishment for his crimes, potentially serving a stint in prison depending upon the outcome of the trial. Though the vlogger has refused to offer an apology to the church, he has stated that he will carry out charitable work for a Christian charity, or pay a fine if need be. He also faces separate charges related to a “spy pen” that was found in his apartment — a tool that records audio but is widely available to purchase in the region — though he has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Watch the video that led to his arrest below: