Russian Doomsday Cult Members Leave Cave After Cave-In

Seven members of a Russian cult that has been holed up in a cave for months have emerged, a regional official said Friday.

More than two dozen others who remain in the cave could come out as early as Saturday, said the official in the governor's office of the Penza region, 400 miles southeast of Moscow. He gave only his first name, Alexander.

He said four children, who were reportedly under the age of two, were among those remaining inside the cave.

He denied news reports that there had been a cave-in, saying only that spring flooding may have opened up a hole through which the seven women emerged. Emergency workers and police were on the site, treating and questioning the women, he said.

The cultists dug the cave near Penza last year, saying they were awaiting the end of the world, which would happen in May. They told authorities they would detonate gas canisters if police tried to remove them by force.

Self-declared prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov has been charged with setting up a religious organization associated with violence, and earlier this week officials said they had seized literature that included what appeared to be extremist rhetoric.

He has been confined to a psychiatric hospital since last November.