Last year, 22-year-old russian blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky played Pokémon GO inside an Orthodox church and filmed it. The video went viral, which put him in detention since October.
Today he was convicted and given a suspended sentence of 3 1/2 years. His crime? Religious hatred, the same “crime” that threw the two women from the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot into jail for two years in 2012.
The judge pointed out that the 22-year-old video blogger was on trial not only for playing the game in the church but also for posting several videos that offended believers. She listed “mockery of the immaculate conception,” ”denial of the existence of Jesus and Prophet Muhammad” and “giving an offensive description of Patriarch Kirill,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Once an officially atheist state, Russia has made a stunning turnaround since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the majority of Russians now identifying themselves as Orthodox Christians. Although most Russians are not observant, the Kremlin has been eager to harness faith to promote its own agenda. The guilty verdict for the Pussy Riot members emboldened radical religious activists who have been successful in their public campaigns to get theater performances banned and exhibitions closed. Last year, activists launched a drive to collect signatures to end state funding for abortion.
Sokolovsky thanked reporters for exposing the story. “I would probably have been sent to prison if it wasn’t for the journalists’ support.”