Woman, 2 Children Leave Cave

ReutersA woman with a child leaving the cave as doomsday cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov, top right, follows on Wednesday.
NIKOLSKOYE, Penza Region -- A woman emerged Wednesday holding a baby and another girl from an underground shelter in the Penza region, where 11 members of a doomsday cult are awaiting the end of the world.

The woman looked healthy and was able to walk. She and the children were taken to a nearby house where other cult members who have evacuated the bunker are sheltering and praying.

As cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov drove up to the house with the mother, baby and child, a reporter yelled: "How's the baby?"

"The little girl feels fine," Kuznetsov answered.

The nine women and two men still refusing to come out are divided about what to do next, and authorities are trying to persuade them to leave, Valery Trazanov, a local government official, said.

"We're optimistic they will continue talking to us today, but as for their exit, we can't say, because among the remaining people in the cave there is still disagreement."

The sect is an ultradevout splinter group of the Russian Orthodox Church. They reject processed food and say bar codes on products are the work of Satan.

"The people in the cave consider themselves Orthodox Christians and not cult members," Trazanov said.

On Tuesday, 14 members of the cult, including two children, were forced to the surface after five months underground when rainwater caused the collapse of part of their shelter, located in a gully near the village of Nikolskoye.

Last week, seven members of the cult, which predicts the end of the world in either April or May, came out of the dugout where they have been living since Oct. 27 last year.

Local officials believe there were initially about 35 people in the dugout.