Ruslan Sokolovsky posted a video to YouTube showing him playing the game inside a church. (YouTube: Sokolovsky!)
A man has been found guilty of inciting religious hatred after playing interactive smartphone game Pokemon Go inside a Russian Orthodox church.
Blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky, 22, posted a video on YouTube last year, using strong language to mock Christianity and likening Jesus Christ to a Pokemon character.
In the video — which has been viewed more than 1.9 million times — Sokolovsky said he had decided to play the popular game inside the church because he had seen a news report saying people who did so could be fined or jailed.
He was given a suspended three-and-a-half-year jail sentence, and was temporarily confined to a pre-trial detention centre.
The court in the Urals region city of Yekaterinburg also sentenced Sokolovsky to 160 hours of compulsory community service and told him not to show up in public places.
After the sentencing, Sokolovsky said:
“I’m content. I won’t play Pokemon, it’s already out of fashion.”
His lawyer said Sokolovsky was unlikely to appeal the verdict.
Sokolovsky was met by a group of young people who clapped as he left the courtroom — including one dressed as a Pokemon character.
A blogger in the crowd, Danila Poperechny, said he was happy Sokolovsky had escaped prison time, but that he was disappointed the case had been framed in terms of offending believers’ feelings.
“The guy spent a lot of time in a temporary detention facility literally for thinking differently,” Mr Poperechny said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when asked by reporters about the court’s decision.
Inciting religious hatred is the same charge used to prosecute the Pussy Riot punk band in 2012 when they staged a cathedral protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Two of the band were given two-year jail sentences.
The band posted on Twitter in support of Sokolovsky, saying his lack of prison time was “good news”.
Pussy Riot tweet: Ruslan Sokolovsky who caught a pokemon in a church got 3.5 years of probation. not prison though – and it’s already great news.
At the peak of Pokemon Go’s popularity last year, millions of people were using their mobile phones to capture animated Pokemon characters at real-life locations in cities around the world.
But users were reportedly finding Pokemon at locations that were criticised as inappropriate, including Auschwitz, the Mosul front line and the 2009 Bushfires Memorial in Victoria.
Tweet from The Levine Machine: Caught a Krabby at the Holocaust Museum! Gotta Remember’em all!
The US Holocuast Memorial Museum asked fans not to play the game at its premises, describing it as “extremely inappropriate”, in a statement released at the time.