A leader of a doomsday sect who had inspired his followers to hide in a cave for five months as they waited for the end of the world has been hospitalized with serious head wounds, Penza government officials said today. Self-styled prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov is described as being in serious condition in a hospital in the town of Bekovo, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) southeast of Moscow. Eleven of Kuznetsov's followers are still occupying the cave nearby.
Although the government representative and the hospital declined to say what caused his injuries, he had been undergoing court-ordered psychiatric treatment. Penza Deputy Governor Oleg Melnichenko had stated earlier in televised comments that Kuznetsov was hospitalized with a self-inflicted open head wound. Melnichenko further added that Kuznetsov had laid his head on a tree stump and hit himself repeatedly on the head with a piece of wood. This contradicts an eariler statement that had been made alleging that cult members had beaten Kuznetsov during an argument. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.
While thirty-five of Kuznetsov's followers had originally barricaded themselves in the cave last October in anticipation of the end of the world, all but eleven have since come out due to deteriorating conditions caused by rainfall.