Moscow - Fourteen members of a Russian Orthodox sect, including two children, have surfaced from half a year underground hibernating and praying ahead of the apocalypse they expect in May.
Following months of negotiation through a ventilation pipe with police and priests camped out on the crest above the backcountry cave, the cult members joined seven women wearing long skirts and headscarves who emerged on Friday.
The region's deputy governor Oleg Melnichenko said those who had come out were in 'good health' but that they had retreated back to homes in the nearby farm village refusing medical aid to continue their doomsday vigil.
Another 14 people, including two young girls, were still in the dugout, which is in danger of collapsing with the spring thaw.
Melnichenko said authorities were doing their best to coax out the remaining interred members and reinforce the cave.
Authorities dug an 11-metre pipe into the hole to provide air and water, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Sect members have threatened to blow themselves up with stockpiled gas balloons and kerosene if police try to remove them forcefully.
'There is great faith that tomorrow (Wednesday) they will all come out,' said Melnichenko.
The sect leader, Pyotr Kuznetsov, a 44-year-old trained engineer from a deeply religious family, was released from detainment in a regional psychiatric hospital as part of talks and now lives with the sect in the remote farm village near the cave.
Kuznetsov claims his cult is the 'true' Russian Orthodox Church and forbids the 35 members recruited from monasteries as far afield as Ukraine and Belarus from buying products and paying taxes, whose identification codes he called satanic numbers.
The Russian Orthodox Church and the government have worried over the rapid growth of religious groups since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Security forces have been watching the remote gully around the clock and keeping journalists at bay since the sect was discovered two months after they went underground in November.
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