Although the initial hype surrounding developer Niantic's wildly popular augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go is waning, millions of people around the world are still eagerly making their way outside to search for, capture and train the little digital monsters.
Many countries and officials, however, have not been as enthusiastic about the addictive game. On Saturday (3 August), Russian officials announced that a local vlogger has been detained for two months for "inciting hatred and offending religious sensibilities" after posting a video of himself playing the mobile game inside a historic cathedral.
If convicted, Ruslan Sokolovski could face five years in prison, Russia's investigative committee said in a statement on Saturday. In July, state-owned news network Russia-24 cautioned local Pokémon Go fans against playing the game in churches or at the country's borders, saying violators could face arrest and jail time.
On 11 August, the 21-year-old posted footage on his YouTube channel that shows him entering Yekaterinburg's Church of All Saints before proceeding to capture the pocket monsters throughout the historic cathedral.
"How can one offend by entering a church with a smartphone?" Sokolovski said.
Local news outlet Meduza reports that Sokolovski was investigated by police shortly after the video was posted and was detained this weekend. Local authorities also said investigators found evidence of "incitement to hatred and attacks on the liberty of faith" upon searching his home, AFP reports.
However, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda said Sokolovski was not arrested for playing the game itself, but due to the provocative nature of his video.
"It is clear that Mr. Sokolovski was not a casual passerby, who in a fit of gaming passion went into the temple, but rather a well-known young blogger in the city, who works in the style of Charlie Hebdo," Legoyda wrote in a Facebook post.
Using the hashtag #FreeSokolovsky, many social media users in Russia have called for Sokolovski's release.
Jaroslav Nilov, head of the State Duma's religious affairs committee, said investigators have not actually proven that the blogger violated the country's strict anti-blasphemy law, adding that his detention was unnecessary.
"In my opinion, catching Pokémon is not an insult to religious feelings, because it is simply the use of a mobile phone application within religious buildings," Nilov told RIA Novosti.
Since its release in July, the wildly popular smartphone game has sparked concerns from multiple countries and officials citing security issues and its potential negative impact on society. The game has also led to a seemingly endless stream of bizarre anecdotes from players across the globe, from crimes and accidents to traffic violations and complaints from cities and institutions.
Several Russian officials have previously criticised the game as a dangerous Western attempt to control and spy on the people of Russia and an app that "reeked of satanism."
"It feels like the devil arrived through [Pokemon] and is trying to tear our morality apart from the inside," communications minister Frants Klintsevich, told The Moscow Times.