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All remaining members of the doomsday sect, holed
All remaining members of the doomsday sect, holed up in a dugout in Russia's central Penza Region since November, have come to the surface, a local authority spokesman said on Friday.

He said that the nine remaining sect members decided to leave their dugout amid fears they would be poisoned by toxic fumes from corpses buried in the cave nearly six months ago.

"We could smell the stench through ventilation holes. One of the sectarians, Vasily Prokofyev, confirmed in a conversation that the stench was coming from the bodies of two people, who had died over five months ago," Vladimir Provotorov, who was involved in negotiations with the sect members, said. "As we pulled out the dead bodies, we suggested the others leave. They agreed."

He added that all the cult members were in satisfactory health.

Rescuers and police completed an operation to bring the two female bodies to the surface earlier on Friday. According to previous media reports, a woman died of cancer and another from malnutrition while fasting. Their bodies were buried in a special hole in the cave.

The bodies will be sent to Penza for identification and an autopsy.

The remaining sect members had earlier pledged to leave the dugout after the Feast of Holy Trinity, celebrated on June 14.

Thirty-five members of the sect went underground in the Penza Region to wait for the end of the world, which they said would come in May or June. Another 24 members, including four children, left the dugout just over a month ago after the roof collapsed.

Five Belarusian passport holders were deported to Belarus following a court order while the other cult members now live in a neighboring village.

The sect is part of a wave of extreme Russian Orthodoxy in Russia and some former Soviet republics. Adherents of this radical form of Christianity refuse to own passports, as they "contain the number of the Beast", and will not handle money or consume products packaged in containers bearing 'Satanic' barcodes.

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