Shaman on cross-country trek across Russia to expel ‘demon’ Putin arrested

A Siberian shaman walking across Russia on a mission to expel Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin has been arrested by armed police.

Aleksandr Gabyshev was six months and 3,000km (1,864 miles) into an epic journey he claimed was divinely inspired.

He was arrested near Lake Baikal in Siberia at a spot where he and his followers were camping.

In July, Mr Gabyshev told a crowd of several hundred in the Siberian city of Chita: “God told me that Putin is not a man but a demon and I have to expel him.”

Local police said a man matching Mr Gabyshev’s description had been detained early on Thursday for a crime committed in the Russian republic Yakutia.

They said they would be putting him on the first flight back to the regional capital, Yakutsk.

Walking 20km (12 miles) a day and wheeling his possessions behind him on a cart complete with a Yakut number plate, Mr Gabyshev had collected a motley crew of companions along the way, as well as a large YouTube following.

In one of his last videos before his arrest, he muses around the campfire on the nature of revolution.

“We need to raise up new generations with different views,” he tells his followers. “After our movement, our Russian nation will be a good one.”

In a statement condemning his arrest, Amnesty International said “the shaman’s actions may be eccentric, but the Russian authorities’ response is grotesque”.

Amnesty added: “Are they truly afraid of his magical powers? Aleksandr Gabyshev should be free to express his political views and exercise his religion just like anyone else.”

Mr Gabyshev’s mission to oust the Russian president has coincided with a summer of protest in Moscow and a wave of subsequent detentions.

On Wednesday, actors queued in long lines to single picket, the only form of protest allowed, against the sentencing of fellow actor Pavel Ustinov to three and a half years in jail after a riot policeman dislocated his own shoulder whilst he was arresting him.

Celebrities, teachers, doctors and even priests have all published letters of support for Mr Ustinov and a Moscow court will now decide whether to commute his sentence.

On Thursday, a lone single picketer came out in Moscow demanding Mr Gabyshev’s release too.

In the city of Ulan-Ude, the detention of some of his supporters combined with dissatisfaction over local election results resulted in the largest demonstrations outside of the Russian capital, with riot police forcibly breaking up crowds in days of protest last week.

In an early video message, Mr Gabyshev said “toppling Putin is my only goal”.

He had hoped to make it to Moscow by Summer 2021, the end of an 8,000km (4,970 mile) odyssey.

He did not make it half way but his message was heard the length and breadth of the country.

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