MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police on Thursday arrested a Siberian shaman who had become a media curiosity after embarking on a long trek to Moscow which he had promised would culminate in him driving President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin.
Alexander Gabyshev began his odyssey in March, promising to walk more than 8,000 kilometres (4,970 miles) from his native Yakutia region to the Russian capital to drive out Putin whom he had called a demon.
But police in Buryatia said on Thursday they had arrested a man on a highway in Siberia in connection with an unspecified crime in Yakutia and that they would fly him there.
Russia’s Interfax news agency cited police as identifying the detainee as Gabyshev.
Amnesty International condemned the arrest in eastern Siberia.
“The shaman’s actions may be eccentric, but the Russian authorities’ response is grotesque,” Amnesty’s Russia Director Natalia Zviagina said in a statement.
“Aleksander Gabyshev should be free to express his political views and exercise his religion just like anyone else.”
Gabyshev, who predicted he’d reach Moscow in the summer of 2021, had walked nearly 3,000 kilometres by Thursday.
Shamanism, a belief that it is possible to communicate with and harness the energy of what practitioners perceive to be the spirit world, is practiced in various parts of Russia.
When asked about Gabyshev’s arrest, the Kremlin said it was impossible to keep track of all the criminal cases in Russia.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn