Police and clergy are having no luck in negotiating with 30 members of a doomsday cult who are threatening to kill themselves in an underground bunker in Russia`s Penza region. A small air pipe is the only way of communicating with the group, which includes four children.
The sect that calls itself "The true Russian Orthodox Church" say the apocalypse will come next May.
"We don`t any connection with the official Church and the government. We also don`t want to be under the number of the beast by accepting barcodes or credit cards. It`s up to God`s will whether we survive until spring or not. If anybody tries to get us out of here, we will blow ourselves up and die a martyrs` death," said one of the cult members.
The authorities have tried to evict them from the bunker they`re living in, but the group members say they`ll burn themselves alive if that happens.
The Russian Orthodox priests have also failed to make any breakthrough after more than five hours of talks.
However, the priests remain hopeful the group can be persuaded to disavow their beliefs.
Starting Monday, the site surrounding the sect`s underground bunker will be off limits to journalists. Updates will be given by the group leading negotiations.
The cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov has been allowed to talk to the media from the secure psychiatric hospital in the Penza region where he`s being held.
"We were divinely instructed to move into two caves. The local people created too many problems, they constantly drank and fought each other. So we decided to leave," said Kuznetsov.
Followers from all around Russia
The bunker`s residents are thought to be from different parts of Russia and the CIS. Reportedly, none of them were employed and their children weren`t allowed to go to school.
"He took their money. Many of them sold their flats. We saw a man who came here from Donetsk in Ukraine to take back his mother who`s one of the followers," local resident Boris Danilov says.
The temperatures above the bunker at night reach -15 Celsius. That`s why doctors are concerned about the children, one of whom is only 18-month-old.
"No one has the right to decide the fate of a child. No one can put a child in danger or put in such harsh living conditions," Leonid Roshal, one of Russia`s most distinguished paediatricians said.
sections: Society, Region News
regions: Central region