Cult Leader Hospitalized With Head Wounds

A Penza cult leader who inspired his followers to hide in a bunker for five months as they waited for the end of the world is in the hospital with serious head wounds, officials said Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Penza governor's office said self-styled prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov was in a serious condition in a hospital in the town of Bekovo, near the site where 11 of his followers were still holed up in their bunker.

Both the spokeswoman and the hospital declined to say what caused his injuries. He has been undergoing court-ordered psychiatric treatment.

Late Wednesday, Deputy Governor Oleg Melnichenko said in televised comments that Kuznetsov was hospitalized with a self-inflicted open head wound.

"It was a suicide attempt," Melnichenko said on NTV television. He said Kuznetsov had laid his head on a tree stump and hit himself repeatedly on the head with a piece of wood.

Earlier, Interfax had cited Melnichenko as saying cult members had beaten Kuznetsov during an argument. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.

Some 35 Kuznetsov's followers barricaded themselves in a bunker beneath a field in October in anticipation of the end of the world, which they said would come in April or May. But over the past week, 24 people have come out, mainly because they say rain has caused the structure to start caving in.

Reuters, AP