NIZHNY NOVGOROD, November 13 (RIA Novosti) – Cult followers in central Russia’s Penza Region have dug a shelter, stocked it with food and are waiting for the apocalypse, which they say is due in May 2008, a local prosecutor said on Tuesday.

A total of 29 sect members, including four children, of the so-called True Russian Orthodox church have moved into the shelter, which contains underground wells, a kitchen, monastic cells and other facilities. They wrote a letter to local authorities saying they had gone underground of their own free will.

“The inhabitants of the underground shelter have threatened to set themselves on fire if forced out,” Alevtina Volchkova said, adding that a criminal investigation has been launched against the sect leader, who calls himself Father Pyotr.

He is likely to undergo a psychiatric examination and will face up to three years in prison if found guilty of infringement of his followers’ rights. The prosecutor also said all the cult members are from other Russian regions or former Soviet countries, and some have breached Russian laws.

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