Playing video games is one of the most harmless acts you can do, though most parents and teachers would beg to differ, but if you are gaming at the wrong place in Russia, you might end up going to jail. This is the reality faced by YouTuber Ruslan Sokolovsky, as he was charged by prosecutors for criticizing blasphemy law and playing Pokémon Go in church, with a maximum prison stint of 3 and a half years.
This whole fiasco started when Sokolovsky uploaded a video last year of him criticizing the fact that anyone caught playing Pokémon Go in church could receive fines up to half a million rubles, along with a 3-year stay in prison. These extreme measures were part of Russia’s blasphemy bill, a 2013 law that was formed after Pussy Riot's anti-Putin protest concert held in Moscow's Saviour Cathedral. It was applied for the first time last year, just a few months before Sokolovsky made his feelings known in the video.
“Actions offending believers' feelings,” form part of the bill, as they're “harmful for the whole society by creating conflict situation within it,” said Irina Yarovaya, a United Russia deputy and one of the bill's initiators.
Sokolovsky also showed himself playing Pokémon Go at the Church of All Saints in Yekaterinburg, before ending the footage with a joke about Jesus. According to Reuters, this prompted state prosecutors to accuse him of inciting religious hate, which got him arrested and sent to pre-trial detention. He is now put under house arrest after being released on bail, and the prosecutor wants him in jail.
“I believe that there is no reason to exempt the defendant from liability,” the prosecutor told the court on Friday, as reported by the TASS news agency. “There is also no reason to sentence him to a fine … I request that the court sentences him to 3.5 years in a penal colony.”
“I'm in shock,” Sokolovsky told the court after hearing this. “I have been in jail, I was there for three months, and it is the doorway to hell. I do not consider myself an extremist, maybe I'm an idiot, but not in any way an extremist.”
This is not the first time Russia is related to video game topics in a negative way, considering they have a murder case involving a debate about graphics card, and bans for FIFA 17 and Overwatch comic for LGBT connections. It seems absurd for any man or woman to be charged for expressing their opinions, be it in a strong or mild manner, but it’s the sort of crazy world we are living in now. Sokolovsky’s fate will be decided when the verdict passes on May 11.
Source: VG 24/7