Russian Doomsday cult leaves cave

Two bodies found as last surviving members abandon dugout after eight months.

    A policeman guards a manhole at the cave  [AFP]

    The 35 members of a devout splinter group of the Russian Orthodox Church had holed themselves up in the cave in the Penza region of central Russia last year to await the end of the world.
    Speaking to Russia's RIA-Novostian news agency, an unidentified spokesman for the local prosecutor said: "A part of the cave collapsed and emergency situations ministry officials tried to strengthen the supports of the cave. During the strengthening work the bodies of two women were found.''

    A police officer did not say why the group had left, but Russian news agencies cited authorities as saying they

    left after being warned they could be poisoned by fumes from the corpses.

    The officer said the bodies would be examined at a local mortuary.

    Provotorov said: "We

    could smell the stench through ventilation holes. As we pulled out the dead bodies, we suggested the others

    leave. They agreed."

    Attempted suicide

    Pavel Kuznetsov, their leader, predicted the apocalypse for April or May this year, but would not join them

    underground, saying God had different tasks for him.

    He reportedly told followers that in the afterlife, they would be judging whether others deserved heaven or


    Followers were not allowed to watch television, listen to the radio or handle money, Russian media


    The elaborate structure included sleeping rooms, a makeshift kitchen and religious altars.

    In March, 24 members left the cave after

     rainwater began to erode the earth in and around the gully where the sect

    followers had settled, forcing most of them to leave the hideout.

    On hearing of their departure, Kuznetsov attempted suicide and was later hospitalised.

    Russian authorities had kept watch over the dugout since November, turning the nearby village of Nikolskoe into

    an operations centre.

    Kuznetsov has been charged with setting up a religious organisation associated with violence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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