A long-haired shaman arrived on foot from the frozen north, dragging a cart with yurt poles and a stove, and preaching that the president is a demon. Days later, a cabbie, invoking the shaman, strode up to the Kremlin-allied mayor of this Siberian city, yelled a string of grievances and posted his rant on YouTube.

Public protests erupted and continued for weeks, but the shaman kept walking west — headed to Moscow, "the heart of evil," he said, to exorcise Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. Then, what he called "dark forces" — a SWAT team — packed him onto a plane

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