ByRob Harris, writer at
Sometimes I play video games.
Rob Harris

Back in August 2016 Ruslan Sokolovsky posted a video to his YouTube channel which showed him playing Pokemon GO while visiting a Russian Orthodox church in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

The stunt was labelled as blasphemous by some ardent religious groups. Sokolovsky was promptly arrested and sent to a prisoner holding cell while he awaited trial. That trial has now begun and if it doesn't go the 22-year-old's way he could face up to seven and a half years in jail, all for flinging a few balls in church.

[Credit: Ruslan Sokolovsky/YouTube]
[Credit: Ruslan Sokolovsky/YouTube]

"I didn't aim to offend anyone," Sokolovsky told the court. "Who is the Russian Orthodox Church that I have to publicly repent in front of?" He himself is an atheist and has said that the video was created with "critical and polemical aims," intended to challenge Russian laws that favor religious believers. Sokolovsky has since said he will apologize to anyone who was offended.

Human rights group Amnesty International has dismissed the legal charges as "farcical," describing Sokolovsky as a prisoner of conscience.

Watch the original video that kicked off the controversy below:

Part of the reason for the furore was due to the Russian Orthodox Church's history, built on the spot where the Bolsheviks shot Russia's last tsar in 1918.

Apart from 'inciting religious hatred' Sokolovsky also faces a dubious charge for possessing a so-called 'spy pen' recovered during a search of his flat. The trial is currently ongoing, we'll update you with more information as it progresses.

Despite a dwindling player-base, Niantic continue to update Pokemon GO:


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