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Russia fears Pokemon Go is part of a Western plot

Officials in Moscow claim the app could be manipulated for terrorist purposes

Pokémon Go has swept the nation, and it’s pretty cult-like. Large groups of people are gathering morning and night at Pokestops that are usually churches and buildings of importance, walking in tandem with their noses pressed to little blue screens. Are we all being tricked into some kind of movement, spawning from Japan, to take down entire nations while they count their eggs? Are Clefairies leading a religious order? A senior Russian security official has asserted that Pokémon Go could be a manipulative tactic to kickstart a revolution in Russia anyway, instigated by the west.

“There is a feeling that the devil came through this mechanism and is simply trying to destroy us spiritually from within,” Franz Klintsevich, a senior Russian security official, explained to state news agency TASS.

The augmented reality game hasn’t been officially released in Russia, but people have got a hold of it anyway. Sites like the Red Square and Hotel Ukrainia, as well as other landmark areas of Moscow, are overrun with people playing the game. 

Klintsevich, the vice chairman of Russia’s Committee on Security and Defense of the upper house of parliament, asked the government to think about restricting Pokémon Go with legislation. It’s something that, if it went ahead, would come into affect after the September elections. He mused as to whether it was a “psychological operation” from the west, to manipulate the population.

“This could lead all the way to revolution,” he said.

Aleksander Mikhailov, a retired major general of the Federal Security Service, said to state news agency RIA Novosti: “Imagine that the little beast in question doesn’t appear in some park but at a secret site where a conscript or other soldier takes and photographs it with his camera. It’s recruitment by one’s own personal desire and without any coercion. This is the ideal way for secret services to gather information.”

Mikhailov also pointed to the app’s GPS and location services as an exploitation method. As the game asks users to take pictures of their surroundings and play with their camera, areas of military importance could be broadcast.

Russia’s Communist Party’s Denis Voronekov also pointed to “uninterrupted spying activities” that would aid “terrorist attacks” the app could afford to the CIA, in an official complaint to the Federal Security Service, reports the Washington Times.

Media in Russia has also stated that users playing Pokémon Go in churches or holy places, as well as on international borders, could go to prison. There’s been no official ban yet though, but the Council for Human Rights and Civil Society has ordered an investigation into the game.

“Pokémons are no reason to visit the Kremlin, which is a jewel of world culture,” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin said.

On Monday, officials in Moscow announced a version of the game had been developed in the city, 'Know. Moscow. Photo'. It's apparently going to launch next month, featuring Russian figures like Ivan the Terrible instead of Squirtles and Lapras.

Though he hasn’t commented on Pokémon Go, Putin has described the Internet as “a CIA project”, and Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov criticised WhatsApp after the app was used by groups to discuss forced marriage.