YAKUTSK, Russia -- Lawyers of Aleksandr Gabyshev, a shaman in the Siberian region of Yakutia who gained notoriety in 2019 after declaring that he wanted to drive Russian President Vladimir Putin from power, have filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against his forced placement in a psychiatric clinic.
One of the lawyers, Olga Timofeyeva, told RFE/RL on May 26 that the complaint was filed because Gabyshev had been placed in a psychiatric clinic in the city of Yakutsk illegally, against his will, and without the consent of his legal representatives.
"The Health Ministry's response to my question about the legal reasons for Gabyshev's detention was shallow. The ministry did not give a clear answer, saying only that visits to Gabyshev had been banned due to coronavirus restrictions," Timofeyeva said, adding that although her client is allowed to talk to his lawyers by phone, she was unable to reach him on May 26.
Gabyshev was placed in a psychiatric clinic against his will after 20 officers from an OMON police unit of Russia's National Guard stormed into his home in Yakutsk on May 12 and detained him.
In early May, Gabyshev posted a video on YouTube that showed him performing a traditional Yakut shaman's dance while declaring: "Very soon you all will break out to freedom."
"People, in two months, you will not recognize the world, including Russia," Gabyshev says in the YouTube video.
"Nobody will hold down people's power. People's power is from nature, from God. And it will sweep out everything in two months. Consider it my forecast, my prophecy.... You will take care of your own destinies yourselves. You will take freedom with your own hands."
Gabyshev made headlines in 2019 when he called Putin "evil" and announced that he would march to Moscow in an attempt to drive the Russian president out of the Kremlin.
Starting the journey in March 2019, Gabyshev walked more than 2,000 kilometers and spoke 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, when Gabyshev reached the city of Chita, he gathered about 700 people together for a rally under the slogan: "Russia Without Putin!"
At the time, Gabyshev said: "God told me Putin is not a human, but instead a demon, and has ordered me to drive him out."
His march was halted when he was detained in the region of Buryatia last September. Authorities transferred him to Yakutia where he was sent to a psychiatric clinic and then released.
In October, psychiatrists in Yakutsk said Gabyshev was mentally unstable. But independent experts hired by the shaman's lawyers concluded that Gabyshev is mentally sound, does not need forced treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and is not a danger to society.
In December, Gabyshev and two supporters attempted to resume the march to Moscow, ignoring Yakutia's subzero temperatures.
But they were stopped again by police and forced to return home.
Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet era, the mystics were repressed harshly.
But in isolated parts of Siberia, they are now regaining importance.