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19 May, 2008 00:45

Doomsday cult - see exclusive pix from inside bunker

The remaining Doomsday cult members who were holed up in an underground bunker in Russia’s Penza region have surfaced, ending a drama that began six months ago. They are said to have been driven out of the vault by toxic gases coming from the decomposing

The bodies of the two women were recovered and taken to a local morgue, where autopsies will be carried out into the cause of their deaths.

  The cult members themselves say that one of the women starved herself to death while the other died of cancer. It is believed the stench from the decaying corpses drove the remaining hermits from the hideout.

The nine cult members who came out on Friday have settled in the village of Nikolskoye, where they lived before holing themselves up in the underground vault.

They had destroyed all their documents, and new passports are now being issued for them.

Among the cult members were Russian citizens from across the country, as well as six Belarusian nationals. The Belarusian citizens have already been deported after being found guilty of breaking immigration laws.

Thirty-five members of the Doomsday cult, including several children, entered the underground vault last November. They planned to sit it out until the end of May, when they believed the world would end.

However, 24 of them have left in the last two months as spring water flooded the shelter.

When a group of 14 surfaced on April 2, they stated that two cult followers had died underground, with nine cultists remaining alive in the bunker.

Their move underground was inspired by sect leader Pyotr Kuznetsov, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2003. Nevertheless, his preaching attracted followers from around Russia and beyond.

The cult members stayed underground in the cold winter months, silent and defiant turning down offers to leave the bunker. They threatened to blow themselves up if any attempt was made to remove them by force. Meanwhile, with temperatures reaching minus 15 degrees Celsius, doctors raised concern about the children's health.

After more than four months holed up, Doomsday cult members said they were considering leaving their bunker below the earth. At the end of March, the first group of seven women emerged as spring flood waters caused a partial collapse of the cave's roof.

Half of the cult members decided to give up their five-month sit-in shortly after that, and within a week, a woman and two children also emerged from the hideout.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed prophet, Kuznetsov, was in hospital recovering from a failed suicide attempt.