YAKUTSK, Russia — A shaman in the Siberian region of Yakutia who has had several attempts to march to Moscow by foot “to drive President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin” stopped by authorities, has been officially found by a court to be “mentally unfit” and can be placed in a psychiatric clinic.
Aleksei Pryanishnikov, the legal coordinator of the opposition group Open Russia, told RFE/RL on March 18 that the court ruled that Aleksandr Gabyshev cannot be held accountable for allegedly “attacking a police officer” because of his mental state.
Last month, police in Yakutia’s capital, Yakutsk, launched a probe against Gabyshev, accusing him of a “violent act against a police officer” when he was forcibly taken from his home to a psychiatric clinic in late-January.
According to Pryanishnikov, it has yet to be decided whether the medical conclusion finding Gabyshev “mentally unfit” will be appealed.
Police say the incident between Gabyshev and a law-enforcement officer took place on January 27, less than three weeks after the shaman had announced his plan to resume his trek to the Russian capital to drive Putin out of the Kremlin.
Gabyshev first made headlines in March 2019 when he called Putin “evil” and announced that he had started a march to Moscow to drive the Russian president out of office.
He then walked more than 2,000 kilometers, speaking with hundreds of Russians along the way.
As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people were posted on social media and attracted millions of views.
In July 2019, when Gabyshev reached the city of Chita, he led a 700-strong rally under the slogan “Russia without Putin!”
At the time, Gabyshev said, “God told me that Putin is not human but a demon, and has ordered me to drive him out.”
His march was halted when he was detained in the region of Buryatia later in September and placed in a psychiatric clinic in Yakutia against his will.
His forced stay in a clinic was equated by many with a Soviet-time practice to muzzle dissent.
Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet era, the mystics were harshly repressed. But in isolated parts of Siberia, they are now regaining prominence.