Anti-Putin Yakut Shaman Transferred To Less Restrictive Psychiatric Clinic

USSURIISK, Russia -- A court in Russia's Far East has decided to transfer to a less restrictive psychiatric clinic a Yakut shaman who became known across the country for his attempts to march to Moscow to drive President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin.

Aleksandr Gabyshev's lawyer, Aleksei Pryanishnikov, said on June 26 that the Ussuriisk district court decided to transfer the shaman to "a psychiatric clinic of a general type."

Pryanishnikov expressed hope that his client will stop being forcibly treated with haloperidol -- an antipsychotic medication used in the treatment of schizophrenia and related illnesses.

Gabyshev, who has been stopped several times by the Russian authorities since 2019 when he tried to march from his native Siberian region of Yakutia to Moscow with the stated goal of driving Putin out of office, was sent to a psychiatric clinic against his will in July 2021, after a court found him "mentally unfit."

During the hearing, the court accused him of committing a "violent act against a police officer" when he was being forcibly removed from his home to be taken to a psychiatric clinic in late-January 2021.

The ruling was challenged by Gabyshev's lawyers and supporters who say his detention is an attempt to silence dissent.

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 that year, 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 first halted when he was detained in the region of Buryatia later and initially placed in a psychiatric clinic in Yakutia for several months against his will.

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.