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'Two dead' inside doomsday cult cave

  • Story Highlights
  • Claims that one woman died from cancer, another from fasting in cult's cave
  • Russian cult leader told followers world would end in May
  • Sect members threatened to commit suicide if authorities tried to intervene
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A cult member who spent several months holed up in a cave with dozens of other people anticipating the end of the world claimed Wednesday that two women died and were buried inside.

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An above-ground kitchen used by the doomsday cult in the Penza region during the summer.

The former cave-dweller, Vitaly Nedogon, relayed his claims to Russian TV journalists, according to Anton Sharonov, a spokesman for the administration of Penza, a region southeast of Moscow.

The official said Nedogon did not report the information to police or authorities. Once the rest of the apocalyptic sect leaves the cave, investigators will move in to try to confirm Nedogon's report, Sharonov said.

Nedogon and others left the cave, said to be near the village of Nikolskoye, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) from the Russian capital, about a week ago, after part of its ceiling collapsed.

He claimed two women died at different times during the cult's seclusion, which began in November 2007. One woman died of cancer and the other from excessive fasting, he told the media.

"However," Sharonov told the Russian news agency Interfax, "the Penza regional administration is of the view that these deaths must be proven legally, which is possible only if all the people leave the cave so that investigative officials can examine it."

Sharonov said those who remain in the cave told Penza officials during negotiations that they would come out by the Russian Orthodox Easter, on April 27. He said officials believe 11 people are left in the cave, but only nine will be alive if Nedogon's report is true.

According to Interfax, Penza Deputy Governor Oleg Melnichenko, who is leading the local effort to resolve the situation, said he was unaware of any deaths in the cave.

The cave ordeal began when Kuznetsov, the group's leader, told his followers to hide themselves to await the end of the world, which he predicted would take place in May.

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They had threatened to commit mass suicide if authorities tried to intervene.

Thirty-five sect members are believed to have entered the cave initially, Interfax said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

From CNN's Maxim Tkachenko in Moscow.

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