For the first time in Russia, ‘offending religious sentiment’ lands two young people in prison. Their crime? A joke about oral sex.
On Friday, October 29, a Moscow court sentenced blogger Ruslan Bobiev and his girlfriend, model Anastasia Chistova, to 10 months in prison for “offending religious sentiment.”
The couple was convicted over a photo they posed for, pantomiming oral sex against the backdrop of St. Basil’s Cathedral. According to Holod Media, these are the first ever prison terms handed down in Russia for “offending religious sentiment.”
Bobiev posted the supposedly offending photograph on his Instagram and TikTok accounts on September 29. In the photo, Chistova is wearing a jacket with the word “Police” across the back. The blogger captioned the photo, “The Labor Code is not the Criminal [Code], you can break it.”
Earlier this month, the same photo landed Bobiev and Chistova in jail for 10 days on misdemeanor convictions of disobeying police. The blogger was also fined 5,000 rubles ($71), and issued multiple apology videos.
In 2016, Russian blogger Ruslan Sokolovsky was arrested after posting a vlog of himself playing Pokémon Go in Yekaterinburg’s Church of All Saints. Legal experts determined that the blogger had equated Jesus Christ with the game’s characters. Sokolovsky’s other vlogs were also used as evidence against in the case. In 2017, a Yekaterinburg court handed Sokolovsky a 3.5-year suspended sentence for insulting religious sentiments, inciting hatred or enmity, and illegally bringing in equipment for covert filming. Sokolovsky’s sentence was overturned in 2019 and his conviction expunged.