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The leader of a Russian sect awaiting the apocalypse
The leader of a Russian sect awaiting the apocalypse in a cave in the country's Penza Region has refused to help the authorities bring the group's children to the surface, a Russian newspaper said on Monday.

Speaking from the psychiatric hospital in Penza where he is being treated for a paranoid personality disorder, Pyotr Kuznetsov, or Father Pyotr as he styles himself, told the Russian Tvoi Den tabloid that the sect members would come out of the cave "after the month of May."

The sect believes that the end of the world will occur in May 2008.

Answering a question as to whether the group would quit the cave in the event of the children falling ill, Kuznetsov said, "I know that the authorities are willing to get that handful of Christians out of there by any means, justifying this by the fact that there are four small children there, while at the same time in our country hundreds of kids die every day as a result of illnesses, accidents and so on."

"The cave isn't very large, but there is plenty of space. It's 50 meters long. There is enough room to get by OK. There is a well, a shower, a toilet, and sufficient food to live there for two or three years," Kuznetsov also said.

Kuznetsov told the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda last week that his "True Russian Orthodox Church" had gone underground in order to "save themselves during the time of the apocalypse." The idea, he said, had come to one of the sect members in a dream, or a "night vision."

The group has now been underground for around two weeks, and has refused all attempts to persuade them to come to the surface.

Some reports have put the temperature in the cave at minus 15 degrees below zero (5 degrees Fahrenheit). Sect members deny this, however.

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