7 Women Leave Doomsday Cult's Cave

ReutersTwo women and a local official standing at the cave near the village of Nikolskoye in the Penza region Saturday.
Seven female members of a doomsday cult have come out of the cave where they have been awaiting the end of the world, but 28 people were still underground Sunday.

The members have been barricaded in a cave dug out of a hillside in the Penza region since October. They have been refusing to come out until the end of the world, which they predict will come in May.

A local official said the seven women had been persuaded to emerge after Pyotr Kuznetsov, the leader of their cult, who is undergoing court-ordered psychiatric treatment, was brought to the scene to negotiate with them.

"Seven people have come up to the surface, all of them women," Penza region deputy governor Oleg Melnichenko said, Itar-Tass reported. "They are all alive and well, so there is no need for medical assistance."

Officials had agreed to let the women move from the cave to Kuznetsov's house in a nearby village, where they have spent their time in prayer.

"The women who have come out will continue their isolation until May, when the end of the world will supposedly happen," he said. "That was their condition, which we promised to respect."

The cult members started intensive negotiations with officials this week after water from melting snow caused part of their cave to collapse.

Another five women, one of whom has a young child with her in the cave, were to come out Sunday, Melnichenko said.

Kuznetsov, found to be of unsound mind by a psychological evaluation, is facing criminal charges for inciting religious and ethnic hatred.

He has also been charged under a law which deems it illegal to form a religious group that urges citizens to harm their own health or to ignore their civic responsibilities.