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Russland Pokemon Go Spieler in Nowosibirsk
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Kryazhev

Jail for playing 'Pokemon Go' in Russian church

Elizabeth Schumacher (AP, dpa)
September 5, 2016

A 22-year-old Russian YouTuber must remain in jail while he awaits his trial for inciting hatred. He played the wildly popular game in the church built over the spot where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were killed.


A Russian blogger has filed an appeal on Monday against the decision to send him to pre-trial detention for playing "Pokemon Go" in a church in the city of Yekaterinburg. Ruslan Sokolovsky, a video blogger who focused on atheism and current events, was arrested for "inciting religious hatred," the same offense that sent two women from the punk collective Pussy Riot to prison in 2012.

After Russian state media warned that players of "Pokemon Go" that using the popular app in churches or near sensitive security areas could result in arrests or even prison, 22-year-pöd Sokolovsky decided to protest the ban in churches.

A YouTube video uploaded in early August shows the blogger playing the game in Yekaterinburg's Church of All Saints, which is of special importance to Russian history as it is built over the spot were it is thought that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks.

According to technology news outlet Vocativ, in the video Sokolovsky asks "who the hell can get offended from walking with a smartphone in church?"

Opposition politicians have been swift to criticize the local court in Yekaterinburg for ordering someone charged with a non-violent offense to stay behind bars until his trial in November. This means, they said, that the court is also depriving his severely handicapped mother of her caretaker.

Reactions from the Russian authorities have been mixed. Jaroslav Nilov, who heads the State Duma's religious affairs committee, told Russian media that he didn't think the blogger had broken the country's anti-blasphemy laws. The Russian Orthodox Church has said that while they agreed that the young man had behaved badly, he ought to be released as long as he agrees to delete the video.

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