Russian Christmas cheer fails to move Doomsday cultists from dugout

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Moscow, Jan 8 (UNI) As Orthodox Christmas celebrations continue across Russia, 35 members of a doomsday cult continue to remain holed up in a dugout, for the last two months, in the Penza region, waiting for the end of the world.

The group include several women and children.

The cultists are living in a bunker in the village of Poganovka, threatening they would blow themselves up inside the dugout if authorities try to get them out.

According to Russian media reports, they are hiding in the bunker to survive the apocalypse which they believe would come in May this year.

The people in the dugout took with them gas cylinders, saying they would rather die in a blast than go out of their shelter.

Their leader is the local resident Pyotr Kuznetsov, reported to be a schizophrenic.

The local police have condoned off the dugout since they fear more cultists could join them.

Russian television channels reported that people in the rural region were praying in congregations for the cultists, fearing they may not be seen again.

Psychiatrists, priests and government officials have repeatedly tried to coax them out, but without success. They said cult members were threatening to commit mass suicide if anyone tried to force them.

Many of the cultists are former members of the Russian Orthodox Church and have described themselves as lost sheep.

The local priest Father Georgie told Russia Today TV channel, ''Our parish is deeply troubled because these people stepped far away from the Church. They have been convinced by the wrong people, who do not have their best interests at heart. All of us prayed that God would give them guidance to find the right way.'' UNI XC SKB HT1935

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