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In a case that has drawn fire from international rights watchdogs, Ruslan Sokolovsky faces up to five years in prison for videos he posted on YouTube, including one of him playing Pokemon Go in a Yekaterinberg cathedral. (file photo)

In a case that has drawn fire from international rights watchdogs, Ruslan Sokolovsky faces up to five years in prison for videos he posted on YouTube, including one of him playing Pokemon Go in a Yekaterinberg cathedral. (file photo)

New details in the case of a Russian blogger facing trial for playing Pokemon Go in a church offers some insight for iconoclasts in Russia who want to avoid prison: Don't liken Jesus to Pokemon, mythological Japanese characters, or zombies.

New details in the case of a Russian blogger facing trial for playing Pokemon Go in a church offers some insight for iconoclasts in Russia who want to avoid prison: Don't liken Jesus to Pokemon, mythological Japanese characters, or zombies.

The Russian newspaper RBK got its hands on an analysis by "experts" that was attached to the case against Ruslan Sokolovsky, who was arrested last year in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on suspicion of impinging on the rights of religious believers and inciting hatred with YouTube videos he posted.

In one short, and at times profane, video, Sokolovsky is shown playing Pokemon Go in a Russian Orthodox Church in defiance of a warning made on state television that the game's enthusiasts risk a fine or prison for trying to catch "Pokemons" at religious sites or near Russia's borders.

In a case that has drawn fire from international rights watchdogs, Sokolovsky now faces up to five years in prison on 17 different counts for videos he posted from May 2013 to September 2016, RBK reported on February 16.

According to RBK, a key pillar of the prosecution's case against Sokolovsky is an analysis of the YouTube videos produced by "experts" from the Ural State Pedagogical University, a copy of which was obtained by the newspaper.

The authors concluded in the study that Sokolovsky's videos, among other things, negatively portrayed Christianity and Islam.

The blogger, who has more than 300,000 followers on YouTube, "denied the existence of God, of the founders of Christianity and Islam, ridiculed important religious precepts and ceremonies of Islam," RBK cited the analysis as saying.

It also said that Sokolovsky likened Jesus Christ not only to Pokemon, but also to protagonists of "Japanese mythology" and "the living dead -- zombies," RBK reported.

Free-Speech Concerns

The Russian Orthodox Church's influence on politics and society has steadily grown during President Vladimir Putin's 17 years in power. During his third term, most notably, he has stressed the importance of family values and touted the church as a central part of Russian identity.

Sokolovsky has been charged under a controversial 2013 law making it a crime to "insult the religious convictions or feelings of citizens." Critics of the legislation say it infringes on free speech and is incompatible with the officially secular Russian state.

He has also been charged under a law that criminalizes the "incitement of hatred" based on gender, race, ethnicity, language, ancestry, or religious persuasion.

Sokolovsky's lawyer, Aleksei Bushmakov, is seeking to have the analysis by the university "experts" tossed out of the case, saying the conclusions in the document were "outside of the expertise" of the authors, RBK reported.

Vitaly Milonov is no liberal "hamster."

Vitaly Milonov is no liberal "hamster."

Vitaly Milonov, a Russian lawmaker who has crusaded against LGBT rights and praised Moscow's embargo on foreign foodstuffs, has been accused of hypocrisy for buying Finnish trout banned in Russia.

A prominent Russian lawmaker who has praised the Kremlin's trade embargo on European Union goods has been photographed outside a fish shop in Finland and accused of unpatriotically buying sanctioned foodstuffs.

State Duma Deputy Vitaly Milonov, a prominent crusader against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights from St. Petersburg who styles himself as a staunch patriot, admitted he bought embargoed trout but brushed aside suggestions that the purchase in Finland was inappropriate.

"For a Petersburger it is entirely normal to be in Finland, which is closer than Moscow," Milonov was quoted by the Politika Segodnya news portal as saying on February 14. "It's no secret for anyone that we travel to Finland to buy fish. Any Petersburg resident knows that fresh trout is really good in Finland. What's so bad about that?"

Milonov also said that he had traveled to Finland not for shopping, but to work on a bilateral Finnish-Russian cultural project called Day of the Russian Romance.

On February 13, Pavel Pryanikov, a journalist and blogger, posted a photograph of Milonov outside the Disas fish shop in the town of Imatra in eastern Finland, writing: "State patriotism in its entirety in one photograph."

In response, Milonov cast his accuser as a "hamster," a derogatory term for opposition-minded liberals, and suggested those of his political persuasion make unmanly purchases like smoothies.

"Unlike liberal hamsters, we don't go to Finland to buy smoothies, but as equal partners to speak with people who wanted to spit at sanctions," Milonov said.

"I would like to remind liberals that Finland for Petersburgers is a vacation place, and Imatra is practically a suburb of Petersburg," he added.

The Kremlin imposed an import ban on many fresh foods from Western countries in 2014 to retaliate after the EU and United States punished Russia with sanctions in response to its annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and interference in eastern Ukraine.

The government has said that these countersanctions will be a boon to domestic agriculture and help the country become self-reliant, while critics say the move has driven up inflation and delivered a blow to the quality of food.

In August 2014, Milonov came out in support of the embargo, dismissing critics and saying, "In a year, tens, hundreds of thousands of people who are toiling foolishly will understand that they [sanctions] will work."

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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