NIZHNY NOVGOROD, April 4 (RIA Novosti) – The 11 members of a doomsday sect still holed up in a shelter in central Russia have taken a ‘time-out’ in their negotiations with local authorities, a local government spokesman said on Friday.
Twenty one members of the sect recently quit the dugout after a number of cave-ins due to thaw waters and heavy rains. The sect members had earlier stated that they would remain underground until the end of the world, which they say will come in May.
“The eleven sect members remaining underground have proved to be the most hard-line. They have decided to halt talks for several days to think and pray,” said Anton Sharonov.
The last two children to have been held underground by the group, known as ‘Heavenly Jerusalem,’ were brought to the surface two days ago.
The group’s leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, 43, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday after an apparent suicide attempt. Russian media initially reported that Kuznetsov, who did not join his followers underground, had been beaten by the emerging sect members after taking part in negotiations to persuade them to leave their shelter. He had been held in an asylum in Penza about 600 km (370 miles) southeast of Moscow, since November.
“The sect members saw the incident with Kuznetsov as a sign. They said, ‘Pyotr is a prophet who died and was resurrected,'” Sharonov said.
There are currently believed to be around 500-700 sects in Russia, containing some 600,000-800,000 people. Many of these profess an extreme form of Russian Orthodoxy. Such groups, as was the case with ‘Heavenly Jerusalem’ frequently burn their passports, as they “contain the number of the Beast” and shun modern society.