Investigators say 35 Russian sect members holed up in cave

MOSCOW, December 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russian investigators have concluded that there are 35 sect members holed up in a cave in the country’s Penza Region, a spokeswoman for the region’s top investigator said on Wednesday.

“Our investigations have determined that there are 35 people in the cave, including four children believed to be between 18 months and 14 years old,” said Maria Orlova.

The sect members went underground a month and a half ago in order to “save themselves during the time of the apocalypse,” which they say will come in May 2008. They have threatened to set fire to themselves if any attempt is made to force them to come to the surface.

Police previously believed there were 29 people underground.

“We have now established their identities, including their citizenship,” Orlova added, without giving details. A number of the group are thought to hail from Belarus.

Orlova denied early media reports that police and special forces were preparing to storm the cave.

“The use of force has not yet been considered,” she said.

She also went on to say that the sect members were in regular contact with negotiating teams, which include psychiatrists and religious figures.

The investigating team has also established that the group’s leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, published several books with a print run of 17,000 before being admitted to a local psychiatric hospital some six weeks ago.

“The books,” Orlova said, were being studied by “linguistic and psychiatric experts” for “calls to violence,” as well as for passages urging readers to drop out of society.

Many extreme Russian Orthodox Christian groups burn their passports and flaunt Russian residency laws, refusing to register with local authorities.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 19, 2007.
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