Russian YouTuber convicted for playing Pokémon Go in church

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Russian YouTuber convicted for playing Pokémon Go in church” was written by Elena Cresci, for The Guardian on Thursday 11th May 2017 10.33 UTC

A Russian YouTuber who filmed himself playing Pokémon Go in a church has been convicted for “inciting religious hatred”.

Ruslan Sokolovsky posted his video at the height of the game’s popularity in August 2016. On Thursday he was convicted by a court in Yekaterinburg and given a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence. The same offence saw two women from the Pussy Riot punk collective sent to prison for two years in 2012.

Sokolovsky has been detained since October, facing up to five years in prison, and was relieved to not be facing jail time. He said: “Without the support from reporters, I would possibly have been given a real prison sentence.”

Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak said Sokolovsky’s videos manifested his “disrespect for society” and that he “intended to offend religious sentiments”.

The video of Sokolovsky playing Pokémon Go

The video shows Sokolovsky playing the game in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg and referring to local news reports that warned people from playing it in Russia’s churches. It has since been watched more than a million times.

He said: “How can one offend by entering a church with a smartphone?

“I decided to just catch some Pokémon in church because, why not?

“I believe it’s both safe and not prohibited by law. Let’s go.”

Sokolovsky’s arrest last year was criticised on social media, where his supporters rallied under the hashtag #FreeSokolovsky. Among them was Pussy Riot, who responded to his suspended sentence on Thursday:

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