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Russian shaman who vowed to banish Putin taken in for psychiatric tests

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Siberian shaman detained by police while trekking to Moscow on what he said was a mission to drive President Vladimir Putin out of the Kremlin has been taken into a psychiatric hospital for evaluation, a regional health ministry said on Friday.

Alexander Gabyshev became a media curiosity when he set off in March on a more than 8,000 kilometre (4,970 miles) walk to Moscow, a journey he said would culminate with him banishing Russia’s leader whom he described as a demon.

His odyssey was abruptly cut short on Thursday after nearly 3,000 kilometres however when police in Buryatia detained him on a highway in Siberia over an unspecified crime in his native region of Yakutia.

Yakutia’s health ministry said in a statement on Friday that Gabyshev had been taken to a psychiatric hospital where medical specialists planned to evaluate his mental health.

“If pathologies are identified with the patient in question, then we are ready to provide qualified medical help,” it said.

Amnesty International has condemned his detention, saying that “the shaman’s actions may be eccentric, but the Russian authorities’ response is grotesque.”

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.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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