PENZA, November 26 (RIA Novosti) – The leader of a Russian sect awaiting the apocalypse in a cave in the country’s Penza Region has refused to help the authorities bring the group’s children to the surface, a Russian newspaper said on Monday.
Speaking from the psychiatric hospital in Penza where he is being treated for a paranoid personality disorder, Pyotr Kuznetsov, or Father Pyotr as he styles himself, told the Russian Tvoi Den tabloid that the sect members would come out of the cave “after the month of May.”
The sect believes that the end of the world will occur in May 2008.
Answering a question as to whether the group would quit the cave in the event of the children falling ill, Kuznetsov said, “I know that the authorities are willing to get that handful of Christians out of there by any means, justifying this by the fact that there are four small children there, while at the same time in our country hundreds of kids die every day as a result of illnesses, accidents and so on.”
“The cave isn’t very large, but there is plenty of space. It’s 50 meters long. There is enough room to get by OK. There is a well, a shower, a toilet, and sufficient food to live there for two or three years,” Kuznetsov also said.
Kuznetsov told the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda last week that his “True Russian Orthodox Church” had gone underground in order to “save themselves during the time of the apocalypse.” The idea, he said, had come to one of the sect members in a dream, or a “night vision.”
The group has now been underground for around two weeks, and has refused all attempts to persuade them to come to the surface.
Some reports have put the temperature in the cave at minus 15 degrees below zero (5 degrees Fahrenheit). Sect members deny this, however.
Psychiatrists from Moscow are currently outside the cave attempting to persuade the group to come out.
“Negotiations are going on,” said an official from the local administration, “but nothing is clear yet. They are still down there.”
The official went on to state that the psychiatrists’ main aim was to convince the group to allow their children to come to the surface, adding that the sect members had earlier responded to similar requests with the words, “The children have suffered enough in this world. You are talking about their bodies, but we are speaking of their souls!”
The psychiatrists are also being aided in their efforts by German Sterligov, a millionaire and former businessman, who said that, “I am also thinking about the end of the world and ready to meet that great event. I and my family have been living in a remote hut in a forest for the last four years…to protect my family from the negative influence of television and modern schools.”
Sterligov stated however that he “is convinced that it is not necessary to prepare for the coming of Christ the Saviour in an underground shelter.”
He also added that law enforcement officials had asked him to come to the cave to talk to the sect members.