Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 10:20 UK

'Two dead' in Russian cave siege

Vitaly Nedogon after emerging from the cave on 1 April 2008
Authorities say they cannot yet verify Vitaly Nedogon's claims of deaths

Two members of a doomsday sect holed up in a cave since October have died, a survivor has told Russian media.

Vitaly Nedogon, who recently left the cave, said one cult member had died from fasting and another of cancer.

Thirty-five of them initially went into the cave in the Penza region, about 650km (400 miles) south-east of Moscow.

Most have gradually emerged but it is thought about 11 remain inside, defying police pleas to leave. The sect believes doomsday will occur in May.

Authorities said the first report of fatalities among the sect members would be impossible to confirm until they had all left the cave.

The True Russian Orthodox Church followers have threatened to detonate gas canisters if attempts are made to remove them.

But most have emerged over the past two weeks after the walls of the cave started to collapse due to heavy rainfall.

Their leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, who did not join them in the cave, is in hospital with head injuries after a reported suicide attempt last week.

Calling himself Father Pyotr, he declared himself a prophet a number of years ago and has attracted followers in Russia and Belarus.

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