Police cordon removed from around Russian sect members’ homes

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, April 7 (RIA Novosti) – A police cordon has been removed from around two homes in central Russia where members of a doomsday sect have been staying since giving up their underground wait for the Apocalypse.

Thirty-five members of the sect, known as ‘Heavenly Jerusalem,’ went underground in the Penza Region in November to await the end of the world, which they say will come in May. However, 21 sect members, including the group’s four children, recently emerged from their hideaway after most of the dugout’s roof collapsed due to thaw waters and heavy rain. Three members had emerged earlier.

A local government spokesman told RIA Novosti on Monday that the police had been withdrawn as the situation in the Nikolskoye village where the sect members are staying was calm. He added that police and emergency officials were remaining on duty outside the dugout where the remaining 11 sect members are still holed up.

These sect members have proven to be the most hard-line, said Anton Sharonov.

“According to the results of psychological portraits, the sect members still underground are the most radical, and are stubbornly sticking to their convictions,” he said, adding that they had broken off all contact with negotiators.

The group had earlier threatened to set themselves on fire if any attempt was made to remove them by force.

The sect’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.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 7, 2008.
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