Russian officials are flipping out about Pokemon GO. And what will dispel its destabilising effect on society, the Moscow government believes, is developing their own, more patriotic, version of it. AP Photo/Nati Harnik
The viral mobile game still hasn't seen a Russian release more than two weeks after its German launch. Yet, Russian Pokemon fans have found workarounds for playing, like registering the app abroad. Fearing how their country will fare under a Pokepocolypse, Russian officials have been spurred to make inflammatory statements about the game's effect on Russian society.
According to the Moscow Times, Nikolai Nikiforov, the Russian government's Communications Minister, speculated that Pokemon GO's purpose is to "collect video-information" under the auspices of intelligence services (read: The CIA). Although he doesn't support a complete ban on the game like other Russian officials, he does suspect that "intelligence services might have contributed to this app".
Frants Klintsevich, a member of Russian parliament, said that "It feels like the devil arrived through [Pokemon] and is trying to tear our morality apart from the inside." The government has even commissioned Russia's consumer rights agency to look into Pokemon GO's "possible harmful psychological effects," reports the Moscow Times.
Today, Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry released safety instructions for Pokemon GO users to cushion Russian players against the game's "risks". Citing the fact that many thousands of people will be "disconnected from reality" and "not paying attention to traffic and pedestrian crossings," Vladimir Puchkov, head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, has distributed guidelines for safe play to citizens interested in the game.
"Our specialists of the State Fire Academy of Emercom of Russia have already prepared and distributed methodological recommendations of safety during the catching of Pokemons, have conducted master classes."
He added that "when somebody spreads information and thousands of people gather in one place and try to divide one Pokemon between a thousand people it can also lead to a problem."
The Russian government doesn't seem completely opposed to AR games generally, despite statements indicating otherwise. By the end of August, Moscow City Hall will release its own patriotic interpretation of Pokemon GO. Instead of Pokemon, players will catch Russian historical figures like Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. It will only work in Moscow.
Moscow's city government explained their decision to launch their own Pokemon GO-like AR mobile game: "The goal of the app is to attract attention to Moscow's rich cultural heritage using fashionable augmented reality technology, as well as give Muscovites a reason to walk around more."