Playing Pokemon GO in the wrong places is openly frowned upon, with the game even ending up banned in some places. For the most part, though, it’s somewhat hard to find yourself in the back of a police car for playing the game unless you don’t pay attention to the world around you or play while driving. In Russia, however, where political tensions can be high and where leaders have criticized the game as a possible foreign psy-op, getting arrested for trying to catch that elusive Pikachu or hatch some eggs is a bit easier. That’s exactly what YouTuber Ruslan Sokolovsky found out when he decided to play the game in church.
While playing Pokemon GO in church is technically not against Russian law, Soklovsky ended up being charged with inciting hatred and offending religious sensibilities, and may end up facing up to five years in jail for it. He recorded a video of himself playing in the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg. He made reference to reports that people could end up in jail for playing the game in churches, and took a nonchalant tone about his own commission of the arguably disrespectful deed. Hot off the heels of a number of videos criticizing the religious organizations of Russia, a police investigation that started soon after the video’s August 11 upload date ended up finding that the video may have been shot in a deliberately irreverent tone as a form of criticism.
Vladimir Legoyda, a spokesman for the church, compared Soklovsky’s work to irreverent political comedy magazine Charlie Hebdo and said that the arrest was not for playing Pokemon GO in a church, per se, while the mayor of the city where the arrest took place called it a “disgrace”. Meanwhile, many on the internet and worldwide have come forward to voice their support for Soklovsky under the hashtag #FreeSoklovsky on Twitter and other social media outlets. Arkady Chaplygin, a lawyer and prominent member of Russia’s Progress party, has taken to social media to urge other supporters to join with him in playing the game at the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg.