Russian police on Thursday said they had detained a Siberian shaman trekking towards Moscow on a mission to expel “demon” President Vladimir Putin, picking up a crowd of supporters on the way.
Police in the eastern Siberian region of Buryatia told Interfax they had detained Alexander Gabyshev, the shaman, on a highway near Lake Baikal and would put him on a flight back to his home region where he is “wanted for committing a crime”.
Gabyshev’s eccentric bid to walk from his home city of Yakutsk to Moscow, a distance of over 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles), has seen a group of followers join him on the way.
His simply expressed statements about Putin captured public attention, prompting opposition protests as well as a sharp response from the authorities and muck-raking reports on pro-Kremlin television.
“God said that he’s a demon,” Gabyshev told the TV Rain channel in July. “Nature doesn’t like him. Where he is, there are cataclysms and acts of terror.”
“Once he’s gone, there will be a thousand years of calm and prosperity,” he said, wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt and surrounded by people at a gathering in Chita.
Gabyshev’s supporters on Thursday morning said in online videos that he was snatched from their camp by masked security officers in the night without explanation. The highway was blocked to carry out the detention.
Online, people mocked the authorities for arresting Gabyshev, who had been walking openly and giving interviews all summer, for a crime he allegedly committed months ago.