At least 30 members of a Russian doomsday cult have barricaded themselves in a remote cave to await the imminent end of the world. They have threatened to use a gas tank to blow themselves up if police try to intervene.
The cult members, who include at least 29 adults and four children, are thought to have taken food and fuel supplies into the cave.
The newspaper Izvestia said the cult members were among the followers of 43-year-old Pyotr Kuznetsov, a schizophrenic who sleeps in a coffin. Police took him to the cave but the group refused his pleas to come out.
After decades of state enforced atheism under Communist rule, many Russians and other ex-Soviet nationals have come under the influence of homegrown and foreign sects.
"They are simple Christians," a local priest, Father Georgy, told NTV television station. "They say: 'The church is doing a bad job, the end of the world is coming soon and we are all saving ourselves'."
Media reports said the cult members believed the world would end sometime in May next year. Police expected them to emerge when their supplies ran out.