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15 Jul, 2008 01:29

Doomsday cult leader stands trial

A local court in Russia's Penza region is set to hear the case of the Doomsday cult leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov. He is accused of inciting religious hatred after he inspired 35 of his followers, including four children, to lock themselves in an underground bu

Eighteen months before November 2007, the cult members had started to arrive in the small village of Nikolskoye in Russia’s Penza region.

During that time they had been building primitive tunnels and cells, capable of housing people underground for weeks on end.

They called themselves the True Russian Orthodox Church and claimed to be awaiting the end of the world.

To the media, they were known as the Doomsday cult.

When they entered the bunker, their leader Pyotr Kuznetsov did not follow them and it sparked certain accusations.

“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 was one of the followers,” said Boris Danilov, a local resident.

Later Kuznetsov was taken to an asylum for psychiatric testing.

Back in the bunker the cult members threatened mass suicide if they were disturbed, making the situation even more delicate.

“It’s prohibited to go down into the ravine. Don’t even speak loudly. Don’t disturb these people please – it could provoke a tragedy,” said one of the policemen who cordoned off the area.

As winter melted into spring, there came a breakthrough.

Floodwaters undermined the cave’s structure causing parts of it to collapse and slowly cult members began to appear.

“Among those who came out there was a woman with two children, one of them a girl less than two years old,” said Anton Sharonov from a local press service.

In the following weeks more left the bunker and after questioning by police they returned to normal life.

Details of their time life underground started to emerge.

“There was a lack of fresh air in the cave of course. We missed the sunshine, birds singing and nature in general,” said Olga, a former Doomsday bunker dweller.

Finally in May the remaining cultists left the cave.

RT was given exclusive access to the underground bunker.

It was during those inspections that a tragedy was confirmed.

Two graves were found of women who had died while awaiting the supposed Apocalypse.

A short time later Russian authorities demolished the bunker.

And now the Russian justice system begins a criminal court hearing against cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov. The trial will take place in the psychiatric hospital where he is being treated.