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Doomsday cult remains defiant

Members of a doomsday cult are defying all attempts to get them out of underground tunnels in Russia's Penza region. Thirty-two people, including four children, have been holed up in a bunker for four weeks – waiting for end of the world.

All attempts to coax them out have so far failed.  And authorities are increasingly worried about the fate of the four children.  There is little evidence to date that they have any plans to emerge.

They have threatened to blow themselves up if the authorities attempt to storm their hideout.

Negotiations have been painfully slow, and have so far proved unsuccessful.  Local priests and special mediators arrived in Penza last week, but have failed to make a breakthrough.

The cult believers appear to be adamant. In fact, they are obsessed with the belief that doomsday is on its way. They say they have abdicated from the world and cut themselves off from reality.

Authorities hope the cult’s leader Kuznetsov may be able to help.  He's being held in a mental hospital.  He's expected to be take to the cave in an attempt to persuade his followers to at least release the four children, one of which is 18 months old.

Officials say the children are the priority.  Once they are freed, the say, there will less pressure to convince the rest of the group to leave the cave.  The adults, they say, are acting on their own free will.  However, authorities say they're reluctant to leave the group completely to its own devices.

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