2 Women Died in Sect Bunker

Two members of the Penza Region doomsday cult who barricaded themselves into a bunker died during their five-month vigil underground, one of the cult members said Wednesday.

"Two people died while in the bunker and are buried there," Vitaly Nedogon, one of 24 cult members who left the bunker over the past two weeks, told Channel One television. "One woman named Tamara died of cancer; the other woman from Belarus died while fasting."

The members are adherents of an sect created by leader Pyotr Kuznetsov, who did not go underground himself, saying God had other tasks for him.

Kuznetsov is in the hospital with serious head injuries. Officials say he may have tried to kill himself.

Penza authorities, who have been conducting negotiations with the cult members to persuade them to come out, said they could not verify anyone had died without investigating underground.

"We can not make any official conclusion based on information presented by Nedogon," said Anatoly Sharonov, a spokesman for the Penza governor's office. "For the moment he has not presented any evidence."

The group of 35 people holed themselves up in the bunker in October to await the end of the world.

Seven female members left at the end of March, followed by a group of 14 a few days later. Since then a woman and two children have also emerged.

They were prompted to leave after the walls began to collapse.