NIZHNY NOVGOROD, January 31 (RIA Novosti) – All members of the Russian doomsday sect holed up in a cave in the Penza Region since fall are in good health despite reports that some have died, investigators said on Thursday.
“There were rumors that some of the people underground died, or that they are ill, but none of this is true. All the hermits are safe and sound. Communication with them is being maintained,” the Investigation Committee under the local prosecutor’s office said.
Members of the sect, believed to number 35 people including 4 children, went underground in November 2007 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.
The sect leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, who calls himself a saint, is currently being held in a psychiatric ward.
On Tuesday, the Tvoi Den tabloid reported that he was beaten up by other patients in the ward, who called him a ‘devil’ and said he had forced his followers, including children, to undergo ‘inhuman suffering’ in their underground cave.
A deputy director of a state forensic psychiatry center said he hopes the sect members will leave their cave before May.
“I would like to believe that reason will prevail and the people will come out of there,” Zurab Kekelidze said.