Court Fines Yakut Shaman Who Resumed March To Moscow 'To Drive Putin Out'

YAKUTSK, Russia -- A court in Russia's Siberian region of Yakutia has fined shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev and ordered him to remain in the regional capital, once again halting his march to Moscow "to drive [President Vladimir] Putin out of the Kremlin."

Aleksei Pryanishnikov, a legal coordinator of the opposition organization Open Russia, told RFE/RL on December 11 that the court found Gabyshev guilty of damaging a police officer's uniform with a batyya, a traditional Yakutian sword, while resisting being served a subpoena a day earlier. The shaman was ordered to pay a 1,000-ruble ($16) fine.

Gabyshev's lawyer, Olga Timofeyeva, told RFE/RL that the court also ordered Gabyshev not to leave Yakutsk because he is suspected of inciting extremism among Russian citizens.

According to Timofeyeva, Gabyshev has been threatened with the offense but never charged, and if he is not formally charged within 10 days, the court order holding him in Yakutsk will be automatically annulled.

Police detained Gabyshev and his two followers, Aleksei Brylyov and Kirill Mukhtarulin, on December 10 on a highway in Yakutia after he refused to accept a subpoena ordering him to show up at the local police for questioning.

Pryanishnikov told RFE/RL on that day that local police also unsuccessfully tried to serve the subpoena to his sister, Yekaterina Gabysheva.

Gabysheva refused to accept the subpoena and told police to hand the document to her brother personally, saying "to look for [him] on the roads leading to Moscow."

Pryanishnikov said police also tried to hand the subpoena to a Gabyshev supporter, Yevgeny Rostokin, but he also refused to take the document. Rostokin was then briefly detained for questioning.

Gabyshev's supporters told RFE/RL on December 8 that the shaman and his two associates had restarted the march a day earlier even though the average temperature in Yakutia is around -44 degrees Celsius these days.

Rostokin said that an initial order issued by a local branch of Russia's Security Service (FSB) barring Gabyshev from leaving Yakutsk expired in mid-October.

RFE/RL correspondents were unable to communicate directly with Gabyshev.

On December 3, Yakutia's Supreme Court rejected a motion by Gabyshev's lawyers to consider the decision to launch an extremism case against their client as illegal and without foundation.

Gabyshev has covered more than 2,000 kilometers by foot since his journey began in March, speaking with hundreds of people along the way. As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people have 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 detention in the region of Buryatia in September, authorities transferred Gabyshev to Yakutia, where he was first placed in a psychiatric clinic and later released.

Earlier in October, psychiatrists in Yakutsk said Gabyshev was mentally unstable, but independent experts hired by the shaman's lawyers, concluded that Gabyshev is mentally sound, does not need forced treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and is not a danger to society.

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.