Penza, April 9, Interfax – The Penza regional administration has taken note of a statement by Vitaly Nedogon, a member of an apocalyptic sect, whose members have been awaiting doomsday in an underground cave, that two women have died during the voluntary seclusion, Penza regional administration spokesman Anton Sharonov told Interfax on Wednesday morning.
“However, the Penza regional administration is of the view that these deaths must be proven legally, which is possible only if all the people leave the cave so that investigative officials can examine it,” Sharonov said.
“Therefore, Vitaly Nedogon’s statement is now being treated as testimony that has not been proven so far,” he said.
Nedogon, who came out of the cave about a week ago after part of its ceiling collapsed, said two women had died during seclusion.
“Two people died there. One woman, Tamara, died of cancer, and the second woman from Belarus was fasting,” Nedogon said on the Russia Today TV channel.
Penza Deputy Governor Oleg Melnichenko, who is leading the local authorities’ efforts to resolve the crisis surrounding the sect members, told Interfax he was unaware of any deaths among the people in the cave.
Thirty-five sect members went into seclusion in a cave in Nikolskoye in the Bekovo district of the Penza region in November 2007. During negotiations with local authorities, the sect members said they would leave the cave on April 27, when the Orthodox Church celebrates Easter.
Seven female sect members left the cave on March 28, and another 14 people came out on April 1, after the cave’s ceiling partially collapsed. Three more people left the cave on April 2.
Eleven members of the sect still remain underground.