Shaman Who Sought To Drive Putin From Kremlin Released From Psychiatric Clinic


YAKUTSK, Russia -- A shaman in the Siberian region of Yakutia, who gained notoriety for claiming to have a plan to remove President Vladimir Putin from power, has been released from a psychiatric clinic where he was forcibly placed earlier this year amid protests by human rights defenders.

Aleksei Pryanishnikov, a legal coordinator for the opposition group Open Russia, wrote on Facebook that Aleksandr Gabyshev was released on July 22.

"Our efforts have paid off in the end. Without social support and wide media coverage of the efforts of defense lawyers, this treatment could have lasted without end as the court's decision did not limit the time set for being [in the psychiatric clinic]," Pryanishnikov wrote.

Gabyshev was placed in a psychiatric clinic against his will on May 12.

His lawyers filed a complaint with the European Court for Human Rights challenging the move, which they said was illegal.

Gabyshev was briefly released on May 29, a day after his lawyers filed a complaint with the Yakutsk city court questioning the legality of his placement in the clinic.

But a court in Yakutsk subsequently ruled on June 2 that Gabyshev must be committed to a psychiatric clinic.

On July 3, the Supreme Court of Yakutia excluded independent experts from taking part in evaluation of Gabyshev's mental health, which sparked an outcry by his lawyers and supporters.

Several local and federal politicians and officials have challenged Gabyshev's forced stay in the clinic in Yakutsk, Yakutia's capital, equating it with a Soviet-time practice to muzzle dissent.

Amnesty International said Gabyshev "has been made an enemy of the state solely for voicing his dislike of Putin."

In early May, Gabyshev posted a video on YouTube that showed him performing a traditional Yakut shaman's dance while chanting, "Very soon you all will break free."

Gabyshev first made headlines last year when he called Putin "evil" and announced that he started a march to Moscow to drive the Russian president out of the Kremlin.

He set off for Moscow in March last year and 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, 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 in September.

He was transferred to Yakutia, where he was confined to a psychiatric clinic.

Gabyshev was released in October, after independent experts hired by his lawyers challenged the local psychiatrists' diagnosis of mental instability, concluding that Gabyshev is sane, does not need treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and is not a danger to society.

In December, Gabyshev and two supporters attempted to resume the march toward Moscow, ignoring Yakutia's sub-zero temperatures.

But they were stopped again by police and forced to return.

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.