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Friday, October 23, 2020

Siberian cult leader claiming to be Jesus arrested in Russia

A cult leader who bills himself as the reincarnation of Jesus has reportedly been arrested in Russia.

Sergei Torop, 59, will face charges for organizing an illegal religion and extorting money from his cult’s members, whom he allegedly emotionally abused, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

Russia’s federal security forces conducted a special operation involving helicopters and armed officers to storm the cult in Siberia and arrest Torop, a former traffic cop known to his thousands of followers as Vissarion, and two of his aides.

The country’s Investigative Committee accused Torop, who sports long hair and a beard, of “using followers’ money and psychological violence to inflict harm,” the Moscow Times reported.

After losing his traffic officer gig in 1989, Torop said he experienced an “awakening” that inspired him to launch a movement called the Church of the Last Testament, which blends Christianity with environmentalism and other values, according to The Guardian.

“I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me,” he told the Guardian back in 2002.

Sergei Torop appears at a hearing at Novosibirsk's Tsentralny (Central) District Court in Russia.
Sergei Torop appears at a hearing at Novosibirsk’s Tsentralny (Central) District Court in Russia.Kirill Kukhmar/TASS/Sipa USA

The cult has about 20 settlements deep in the southern Siberian wilderness, where about 4,000 followers —  or “Vissarionites” — live, according to the Moscow Times.

Authorities also reportedly arrested Vadim Redkin, Torop’s alleged right-hand man, and another associate named Vladimir Vedernikov.

It’s not immediately clear what prompted authorities to move in on Torop. The Russian Orthodox church has criticized the cult in the past, though the organization has remained largely unbothered, according to The Guardian.

Read More at NYPost

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