MOSCOW At least 30 members of a Russian
doomsday cult have barricaded themselves in a remote cave to
await the end of the world and are threatening to commit
suicide if police intervene, officials and media said on
"They have covered the entrance and refuse to come out and
are threatening to blow themselves up," an official in the
local prosecutor's office told Reuters by telephone. "They
threaten to detonate a gas tank and blow themselves up."
The cult members, who include 29 adults and four children,
are hidden inside a snow-covered hillside in the Penza region
of central Russia. A Penza police spokeswoman said they had
moved into the dug-out on November 7.
"No one wants to take on the responsibility of provoking
them ... because our information is that there are children
among them," said the official.
They are thought to have taken food and fuel supplies in
with them and Russian television pictures from the scene showed
smoke or steam coming out of a hole in the snow-covered ravine
where it was built.
A police patrol was guarding the area to prevent anyone
"They are simple Christians," a local priest, Father
Georgy, told NTV television station. "They say: 'The church is
doing a bad job, the end of the world is coming soon and we are
all saving ourselves'."
Media reports said the cult members believed the world
would end sometime in May next year. Police expected them to
emerge when their supplies ran out.
After decades of state-enforced atheism under Soviet rule,
many Russians and other ex-Soviet nationals have come under the
influence of home-grown and foreign sects.
Many Russians have refused new passports and taxpayers'
personal identification numbers, saying the figures contained
"satanic" combinations of numbers.
Izvestia newspaper said the leader of the cult, Pyotr
Kuznetsov, had been detained by police. It said he was a
43-year-old who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and that
in the last few months he had been sleeping in a coffin.
Police took Kuznetsov to the cave to persuade his followers
to come out but without success, said the newspaper.
(Reporting by Tatyana Ustinova; writing by Dmitry Solovyov;
editing by Philippa Fletcher)