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Cult set to give up wait for world's end

  • Story Highlights
  • 14 members of a cult awaiting the end of the world have come out
  • Two children, aged eight and 14, among those now above ground
  • Remaining members in cave expected to leave on Wednesday
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- The remaining 14 doomsday cult members holed up in a southern Russian cave are likely to give up their wait for the end of the world and leave the cave Wednesday, officials say.

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

If they do, it will bring an end to a bizarre story in which 35 members of the group have lived in the den -- in a sometimes snowy ravine in Russia's Penza region -- since November.

On Friday, seven members of the cult left the cave and moved into the home of their leader, Father Pyotr Kuznetsov, who has been living in the nearby village of Nikolskoye.

Another 14 members left the cave Tuesday. That group included two children, aged eight and 14, Dmitry Eskin of Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry told CNN.

Oleg Melnichenko, the vice-governor of the Penza region, told media that there was a high possibility the remaining members would leave the cave Wednesday. His announcement came after talks with those still inside.

The partial exodus began after authorities gave in to cult members' demands that Kuznetsov, the group's leader, be released from a mental institution

Kuznetsov has made several trips with authorities to ask cult members to leave the cave. However, at one point police had to stop him from entering the cave to join his followers. Video Watch cult members emerge from hiding. »

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

The 14 cult members still in the cave have sufficient supplies to last until then, Eskin said.

"Huge work has been done to persuade those people to come out," he said.

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

The cult calls itself the True Russian Orthodox Church and said it would ignite gasoline canisters if authorities tried to force them out. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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