IRKUTSK REGION, Russia -- A Yakut shaman who was detained while walking across Russia for months "to drive [President Vladimir] Putin out of the Kremlin" and moved to a psychiatric clinic in his native Yakutia region has been released for one night.
Viktor Yegorov, a supporter of Aleksandr Gabyshev, told RFE/RL on September 20 that the shaman was allowed to spend a night at his relatives' home in Yakutsk, but ordered to return to custody on September 21.
"He will be kept in custody during the investigation. He told me he will be tried for attempting to overthrow the current political system. That is what he said to me, it looks like it is an extremism charge," Yegorov said.
Another supporter, Yevgeny Rostokin, told RFE/RL that Gabyshev is ready to face a trial and maintains his innocence.
"He has a lawyer. But additional judicial assistance would be great and surely, we will be happy if human rights activists were to help as well," Rostokin said, adding that residents of three Siberian cities, Chita, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude, plan to hold rallies demanding Gabyshev's release.
Meanwhile a video appeared in the Internet on September 20, in which Gabyshev calls on his supporters "to be calm and rest" while he is detained in the psychiatric clinic. His arrest and treatment in custody so far have "been within the limits of law," he added.
Rostokin told RFE/RL that Gabyshev had told him that a guard was accompanying him at his sister's home and that he was promised no medicine will be injected into his body after his return to the clinic.
"He said the authorities are treating him carefully as many in the country are following his ordeal. He said to me: 'This will take a long time. I think this is my faith to go through a trial, all the tests, like Jesus Christ. Maybe, I will be jailed,' the shaman said," Rostokin told RFE/RL.
The region's Health Ministry said earlier in the day that Aleksandr Gabyshev's mental state will be assessed by experts and "a professional medical assistance will provided to the patient."
The Interior Ministry of Buryatia, another Siberian region, said on September 19 that Gabyshev was detained overnight because he was wanted in his native Yakutia on suspicion of committing an unspecified crime.
Gabyshev's supporters have challenged the official explanation for his detention, saying that he had been walking for several months across Siberia and if he was indeed wanted in Yakutia, then the police would have arrested him before.
A member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Ilya Shablinsky, expressed concern over sending Gabyshev to the psychiatric clinic, comparing the move with the Soviet-era practice of placing dissidents in psychiatric clinics.
"It looks extremely suspicious and causes very serious doubts. We already have a grim page in the history of our country's psychiatric system, when it served the interests of one group and tortured and starved people to death. If we're now seeing some elements of resurrection of that tradition, then it is scary," Shablinsky told the Interfax news agency.
Yegorov told RFE/RL that several supporters of the shaman who joined him during his walk had decided to keep on walking to Moscow to fulfill Gabyshev's mission.
One of Gabyshev's supporters, Viktor Yegorov, told RFE/RL on September 20, that several supporters of the shaman who joined him during his walk had decided to keep on walking to Moscow to implement Gabyshev's mission.
The group is currently in Siberia's Irkutsk region bordering Buryatia, where Gabyshev was detained by masked, armed police forces.
Amnesty International called Gabyshev's detainment "just another act of brutal suppression of human rights" in "today's Russia."
"The Russian authorities must reveal Aleksandr Gabyshev's fate and whereabouts and release him immediately and unconditionally. He is a prisoner of conscience, deprived of liberty solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and assembly," Amnesty said in a statement.
Gabyshev started his walk to Moscow several months ago. He announced that he planned to reach Moscow by foot in two years. He said he considered the Russian president "a creation of dark forces" and only a shaman can stand against him.
Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet age of "science and reason," the mystical figures were harshly repressed. But in isolated regions of Siberia, they are regaining importance.
Gabyshev has covered more than 2,000 kilometers on foot and during his walk has talked with hundreds of truck drivers and others as he kept gaining notoriety. Videos of the talks have shown up on social media with millions of views.
In July, upon reaching the city of Chita, Gabyshev gathered some 700 people under the slogan "Russia without Putin!" The shaman said that "God told me Putin is not a human, but instead a demon and has ordered me to drive him out."