Yakut Shaman Resumes March To Moscow 'To Drive Putin Out Of Kremlin'

YAKUTSK, Russia -- Yakut shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev has resumed his march to Moscow from his native far-eastern region of Yakutia "to drive [President Vladimir] Putin out of the Kremlin."

One of Gabyshev's supporters, who introduced himself as Aikhal, told RFE/RL on December 8 that the shaman had restarted his march the day before with two followers and four Siberian Laika dogs, even though the average temperature in Yakutia is now around minus 44 degrees Celsius.

Another supporter of Gabyshev, Yevgeny Rostokin, told RFE/RL that Gabyshev resumed his march to Moscow "after speaking to spirits," and "learning God's will."

According to Rostokin, the order issued by a local branch of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) barring Gabyshev from leaving the capital of Yakutia, Yakutsk, expired in mid-October.

RFE/RL correspondents were unable to connect with Gabyshev himself.

On December 3, Yakutia's Supreme Court rejected a motion by Gabyshev's lawyers to consider illegal and ungrounded the decision to launch an extremism case against their client.

Gabyshev covered more than 2,000 kilometers on foot on his journey from March to September, speaking with hundreds of people along the way. As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people appeared on social media, attracting millions of views.

In July, when he reached the city of Chita, Gabyshev gathered some 700 people under the slogan "Russia without Putin!" The shaman said then that "God told me Putin is not a human, but instead a demon and has ordered me to drive him out."

After his detainment in the region of Buryatia in September, authorities transferred Gabyshev to Yakutia, where he was first placed in a psychiatric clinic and later released.

Gabyshev was told he was suspected of inciting extremism among Russian citizens and ordered not to leave Yakutsk.

Earlier in October, psychiatrists in Yakutsk said Gabyshev was mentally unstable, but his lawyers, who feared that a court could sent their client to a psychiatric clinic for forced treatment, rejected the medical conclusion and arranged an examination by independent experts.

On September 17, a legal coordinator of the opposition Open Russia organization, Aleksei Pryanishnikov, told RFE/RL that independent experts concluded that Gabyshev was mentally sound, did not need forced treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and was not a danger to society.

Open Russia's human rights coordinator, Valentina Dekhtyarenko, told RFE/RL in October that although Gabyshev was a suspect in a criminal case, he had not been officially charged with any crime.

Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet age of "science and reason," the mystical figures were harshly repressed. But in isolated regions of Siberia, they are regaining importance.