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26 Mar, 2008 10:45

Doomsday cultists eye Easter exit

Members of Russia’s Doomsday cult, who’ve been holed up in a bunker for five months, say they may come out next month, on Orthodox Easter Sunday. During talks with authorities in Russia's Penza region, the cultists mentioned April 27 as a possible exit date.

Some authorities say they could be forced out even before Easter.

“I can’t give any forecast but you know our environment and weather, we are the snowy kingdom. Floods may make them come out earlier. Already part of their hiding place collapsed, part of the roof, and they had to fix a hole,” said Tatyana Ostrovskaya, Penza General Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson.

A week ago local residents noticed car tyre tracks and fresh dirt near the cultists' hideout, suggesting at least some of them could have left the caves already.

Twenty-nine people, including four children, barricaded themselves inside the underground bunker in mid-November, saying they were waiting for the end of the world in May.

They believe they were chosen to survive whatever tragedy would come – but it appears their beliefs may have been shaken.

It's the first time attempts to negotiate have been successful.

The leader of the cult Pyotr Kuznetsov was apparently involved in negotiations.

He's currently being held in a psychiatric hospital and has recently been diagnosed clinically insane.

Previously members of the group would threaten to blow themselves up if any attempt was made to remove them by force.

The authorities say they are doing all they can to ensure their safety, and have a plan in case the cult members attempt to blow up their underground home.