Russian church accuses blogger of blasphemy over ‘Pokemon Go’
RUSSIA’S influential Orthodox Church accused a blogger of blasphemy as he faces up to five years in prison for filming himself playing Pokemon Go in a church.
Ruslan Sokolovsky from the Urals city of Yekaterinburg is in detention after being charged with offending religious believers and inciting hatred, over a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 1 million times.
The 21-year-old video blogger filmed himself in Yekaterinburg’s Church on the Blood, built on the spot where in 1918 the Bolsheviks shot the last czar and his family.
The case is making waves in Russia – where the Orthodox Church has close ties to the authorities – and has prompted comparisons with the Pussy Riot group whose 2012 performance in a Moscow cathedral led to twoyear jail terms.
In the video posted on August 11, Mr Sokolovsky zaps Pokemons on a smartphone in front of the altar and swears – while also comparing Jesus to a Pokemon.
The video blogger has been remanded in custody for two months and is appealing against his arrest.
The Russian Orthodox diocese of Yekaterinburg issued an edict on the Church’s position, saying the blogger deliberately committed “blasphemy in a holy place”.
The Church said his actions prompted “protests by believers nationwide” and “must be decisively checked in strict accordance with the country’s laws”.
Those who urged forgiveness and called on the authorities to release Mr Sokolovsky “are confusing Christian universal forgiveness with the Stockholm Syndrome, where prisoners identify with their captors”, the statement said.
Investigators have applied the harshest possible legal definition on Mr Sokolovsky’s actions under controversial legislation brought in after the Pussy Riot case, which sparked condemnation of Russia.
The situation could now get even worse for the blogger after officials suggested they could slap an extra criminal charge on him as investigators said that while searching his home and office they found a “spy pen” for making covert recordings.
The Church’s reaction was unexpectedly harsh, however, considering that the Metropolitan Kirill who heads the Yekaterinburg diocese said earlier this week, “We don’t want his blood.”
Mr Sokolovsky, who creates videos about his atheist views and publishes a magazine called Nothing Sacred, has refused to testify, citing his constitutional right, investigators said. –