Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Hold Doomsday Cult Heads In Ukraine

KIEV - The leaders of the White Brotherhood, who had planned a weekend of religious upheaval in Kiev to climax with the end of the world on Sunday, instead spent the day in jail Thursday.

Marina Tsvygun, who claims to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and her second husband, Yury Krivonogov, were among the 60 cultists arrested Wednesday during an attack on St. Sophia Cathedral, the Slav world's oldest and most revered church.

Police said Thursday that they did not realize that Tsvygun, who calls herself Maria Devi Khristos, and Krivonogov, who is believed to be the ideologue of the cult, were in their custody until some of the other people arrested started bowing down to her and kissing her feet, according to Oleg Mashchenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

"After that her first husband came and identified her", Mashchenko said.

The arrests seemed to throw the remaining cult members into disarray, and ceremonies planned for noon in the central Bagdan Khmilnitsky Square, next to St. Sofia, failed to materialize. The cult's original plans called for Tsvygun to be crucified Thursday and reincarnated Saturday, one day before they believe the world will come to an end.

Police showed at a press conference a videotape interview of Tsvygun taken shortly after her arrest. In it she says, holding her hands in benediction: "I am 33 years old, the same age Christ was when he was crucified".

She also wildly gesticulated and insisted that she was the second coming of Christ.

When confronted with questions about her son, 13, she called the interviewer Satan. The 60 arrested with her, including many children, were filmed in the video wearing white pharonic robes, chanting and playing cymbals like Hare Krishna followers.

Police said they fear her followers still at large could regroup and continue the sect's activities. They estimate there are about 2, 500 still in Ukraine. Two weeks ago they had predicted that 150, 000 cultists would descend on Ukraine.

Police charged Krivonogov on Thursday with breaking three laws - theft, from his followers; causing injury to others under the guise of religion; and building structures on property belonging to others, a reference to a large house his followers built for him on the outskirts of Kiev.

Tsvygun still had not been charged with any crime Thursday, in part, Mashchenko said, because police were unclear whether she was acting of her own volition or whether she was the victim of some kind of brainwashing or hypnosis at Krivonogov's hands. Krivonogov is reported to have worked with hypnotic techniques and drug testing for the Kiev Cybernetics Institute.

To date, 750 people have been detained in Kiev for not having proper documents, police said. White Brotherhood followers have strenuously resisted arrest, fighting and screaming on the way to jail and refusing to eat once detained.

Police said 371 are currently on hunger strike, and have been distributed to hospitals throughout Ukraine. There have been no deaths. Tsvygun and Krivonogov have eaten since their arrests, Interior Minister Ivan Levchenko said.

The arrests Wednesday took place after followers entered the 11th-century St. Sofia Cathedral and smashed an 18th-century gilded altar with a fire extinguisher and sprayed icons with foam.

The church is the site of the great schism which separated the Russian Orthodox Church from Byzantium. It is Kiev's rich spiritual past that drew the White Brotherhood to plan the "end" in that city.