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'Don't use force against doomsday cult': Orthodox Church

Russian Orthodox leaders are warning authorities not to use force against a group of religious fanatics holed up underground since early November. A group of 30 people, among them four children, are threatening to set themselves alight if police try to f

A ventilation pipe – the only way to communicate
A ventilation pipe – the only way to communicate
Belarussians help

Negotiators at the site are hoping two influential Belarussians may be able to end the siege. It's hoped the Belarusians will manage to persuade their countrymen who are among the cult members to come out. 

One is a member of the National Assembly of Belarus. The other is a businessman who shares the cultists' apocalyptic beliefs.

The bunker's residents are thought to be from different parts of Russia and the CIS. It's reported none of them have jobs and they've stopped their children from going to school. Many of them have sold their flats.

Will the cult leaders be legally charged?

As concerns over the legal status of the case mount, Tatiana Ostrovskaya from the Penza region State Prosecutor’s Office said a criminal case has been launched according to an article of Russia’s Criminal Code that places liability on organising groups for violating human rights and the rights of citizens.

“Those charged according to this law can be fined up to 200,000 roubles or imprisoned for up to three years but no one has been accused yet. The guilty are yet to be identified,” Ostrovskaya said.

The Russian Constitution makes a provision for performing religious rituals together or individually in accordance with their religious beliefs. At the same time, the Constitution says it's necessary to ensure that those groups are voluntary.

The bunker plan
The bunker plan
“Now we have to find out whether those people in the bunker were pressured, and, if so, who influenced them. Human rights are violated because children are involved,” the Prosecutor’s Office representative noted.

The possibility that no one will be charged still remains. Legal and psychiatric examinations need to be carried out. The organisers of the group may be found clinically insane and unable to understand the social danger to others because of the cult’s activities. In this case they may just be forced to undergo compulsory medical treatment.

Followers await doomsday in May
The sect that calls itself “The True Russian Orthodox Church” say the apocalypse will come next May.

Some followers who were too late to join the main group in the bunker have spoken to RT correspondent. They said the prediction has divine authority.

“It’s even in the Bible. We went to churches till the end, we’ve been looking for churches, but they all have devil’s numbers. They’re all merged with the secular arm,” a woman said from behind a closed door at the cult’s ‘church’.

The bunker is an impressive construction, built 12 metres below ground. It’s dug out of limestone and clay and, therefore, doesn’t need pillars to support it.   

The religious fanatics claim the structure and the amount of supplies will sustain them until spring.