Russian doomsday sect resumes talks with authorities

PENZA, April 14 (RIA Novosti) – The members of a doomsday sect still underground in central Russia resumed talks with authorities on Monday, but did not indicate when they intend to leave their hillside dugout.

“The hermits initiated talks with rescue workers themselves. They said they were running low on water, and asked to be given water,” a spokesman for the local governor said.

The Penza Region’s governor, Vasily Bochkarev, contacted the sect members and asked them if they needed help. “As far as I know, they did not request further assistance,” the spokesman said.

Twenty-four members of the group, which went underground in November to wait for the end of the world, which they say will come in May or June, left the dugout in the Penza Region in early April after most of the shelter’s roof caved in.

The remaining members, who have been described as “the most radical” by Russian authorities, resumed contact negotiators last week after an almost week-long break.

On Thursday, friends and relatives of the sect members arrived at the dugout to try to convince the group to come to the surface. Local authorities gave assurances that the followers, who burnt their passports before going underground, would be issued with temporary documents if they emerge.

Last week one of the sect’s members now above ground told reporters that, “During our stay, two people died. They are buried there. One of them died of cancer and the other after fasting too intensely.”

Local authorities have not confirmed the deaths.

The sect’s leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, 43, was admitted to hospital earlier this month 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.

Despite one member of the sect claiming that the group is an offshoot of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the sect has generally been considered part of a wave of extreme Russian Orthodoxy in Russia and some former Soviet republics. Adherents of this radical form of Christianity refuse to own passports, as they “contain the number of the Beast”, and will not handle money or consume products packaged in containers bearing ‘Satanic’ barcodes.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 14, 2008.
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