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Russian man gets three-and-a-half years of suspended jail for playing Pokemon Go in church

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MOSCOW — A Russian man, who posted footage of himself playing Pokémon Go inside a Russian Orthodox church, has been convicted for “inciting religious hatred” and given a three-and-a-half year suspended sentence by a court in Yekaterinburg.

Blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky, 22, posted a video on YouTube at the height of the game’s popularity in August 2016, 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.

Sokolovsky 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.

Sentencing Sokolovsky, Judge Yekaterina Shoponyak his videos manifested his “disrespect for society” and that he “intended to offend religious sentiments”.

Sokolovsky,after the sentencing, 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.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment when asked by reporters about the court’s decision.

Agencies

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Air strikes cripple Syria chemical weapons program : US President

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WASHINGTON — United States President Donald Trump has said that missile attacks at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program a success.

He proclaimed on Twitter: “Mission accomplished,” echoing former President George W Bush, whose use of the same phrase in 2003 to describe the US invasion of Iraq was widely ridiculed as violence there dragged on for years.

“We believe that by hitting Barzeh, in particular, we’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemicals weapon program,” US Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said at the Pentagon.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago, targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development center in Damascus’ Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.

Western powers said on Saturday their missile attacks struck at the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program, but the restrained assault appeared unlikely to halt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s progress in the 7-year-old civil war.

The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and his superpower ally Russia, but the three countries said the strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.

The air attack, denounced by Damascus and its allies as an illegal act of aggression, was unlikely to alter the course of a multisided war that has killed at least half a million people.

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