Fourteen members of a Russian doomsday cult have come out from the cave they were hiding in while waiting for the world to end, according to emergency officials in Moscow.
Spokesman Dmitry Yeskin said all are in decent condition. Melting snow caused part of the cave to collapse, and a number of cult members, including four young children, remain inside and could possibly be dead.
Thirty-five people took refuge in the cave in the Penza region, about 650 kilometres southeast of Moscow, in November, threatening to detonate 400 litres of gas canisters if authorities tried to remove them. The cave dwellers, members of a group calling itself the True Russian Orthodox Church, said they were waiting for the end of world, which they believed would come sometime in May.
Attempts by a group of Russian Orthodox monks to coax the group out of the cave in November proved futile. Seven cult members, however, chose to leave the cave three days ago.
The group is led by Pyotr Kuznetsov, a trained engineer from a religious family who declared himself a prophet several years ago, left his family and settled in a village near the cave.
He did not join the group in the cave, and underwent a psychiatric evaluation in November after being charged with setting up a religious organization associated with violence.
Kuznetsov was said to have blessed his followers, many of whom were women, before sending them into the cave, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported at the time. The group brought stocks of food and other supplies with them, and had access to doctors if necessary.
There are about 10 similar, nominally Christian cults in Russia, Alexander Dvorkin of the Moscow-based independent Centre of Religious Studies told the Associated Press last year, with members living in isolation under the influence of a leader.