Friday, September 9, 2016

Russian Blogger Arrested

A prominent YouTube blogger, was filmed catching Pokémon in the Church of All Saints in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, and now faces 5 years in jail. The mayor of the city called the arrest a “disgrace” and tweeted that “You can’t hold a man liable for idiocy, bad manners and desire to show-off.”

When the Pokémon Go hype was at its height, the blogger was filmed catching Pokémon in the church. The video in question by now has been watched almost a million times, and Sokolovsky refers in it to news reports warning players could be jailed if they played the game in the church. He questions: “How can one offend by entering a church with a smartphone?” and decides to check it out. After he posted the video, police began its investigation and have already charged the YouTuber with inciting hatred and offending religious sensibilities, detaining him for 2 months. The penalty could reach up to 5 years in prison – under the same offence that sent Pussy Riot to prison for 2 years.

Sokolovsky has about 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and is known for previously making videos criticizing the Russian church. This arrest received wide publicity: for example, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman posted on his Facebook page saying Sokolovsky had not been arrested for catching Pokémon.

In the meantime, Evgeny Roizman, the mayor of the city, who is loved by the people very much, tried to do something to help the 22-year-old out of jail. He had to apply to high officials of the Russian Orthodox Church to speak in favor of the blogger, and recently tweeted that they will ask to release the YouTuber. Pussy Riot also supported the guy online, of course.

It must be said that Pokémon Go has not officially been released in Russia, but local officials have already criticized the game, claiming that it was made by intelligence services to spy after people.

Since Sokolovsky’s arrest, there have been reports that activists all over the country were planning to catch Pokémon in another church. One of the members of the Russian branch of the Progress party urged others to join him in playing Pokémon to protest the arrest of the vlogger. Whether such efforts are successful in securing blogger’s release remains to be seen.