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Page last updated at 17:25 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 18:25 UK

Priest helps in Russia cave siege

Women cult members at the site of the Russian cave, 29 March 2008
Some women cult members left the cave at the weekend

A priest specialising in apocalyptic literature has been brought in to persuade members of a doomsday cult to leave a cave in Russia.

The 28 cult members barricaded themselves in the cave 750km (450 miles) south-east of Moscow in October.

The priest, an expert in the Book of Revelations, has spoken to them through a ventilation shaft.

On Saturday, several members of the cult, who believe the world will end in May, came out of the cave.

They left their refuge in the Penza region after part of the roof collapsed.

The seven women were allowed to leave with cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov after he was brought to the scene to negotiate.

It is unclear whether this latest attempt at encouraging the cult members to leave the cave, conducted by Fr Hermogen, has had any success.

Threats

Up until now, the cult members have strongly resisted attempts to force them out.

map

They threatened to detonate gas canisters if attempts were made to remove them and last week reportedly shot at police to drive them off.

However, there are reports of a split in the cult after a number of cave-ins due to prolonged rainfall. There are fears the cave could collapse completely.

The authorities say they hope the remaining members, including four children, will come out soon.

Mr Kuznetsov, who calls himself Fr Pyotr, declared himself a prophet a number of years ago and has attracted followers in Russia and Belarus.

He is thought to have ordered his followers into the cave but did not join them.


video and audio news
Inside the cult members' cave



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