Helicopters, armed police swoop in to arrest 'Russian Jesus' cult leader

Vissarion, who has proclaimed himself a new Christ, conducts a service during the "Holiday of Good Fruit" feast in the village of Obitel Rassveta (Cloister of Sunrise), some 640 km (398 miles) southeast of Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia August 18, 2010. (photo credit: REUTERS/ILYA NAYMUSHIN)
Vissarion, who has proclaimed himself a new Christ, conducts a service during the "Holiday of Good Fruit" feast in the village of Obitel Rassveta (Cloister of Sunrise), some 640 km (398 miles) southeast of Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia August 18, 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ILYA NAYMUSHIN)
Helicopters and armed officers were used to infiltrate the communities run by Sergei Torop, 59, who is more commonly known by his cult name "Vissarion." He and two aides – Vladimir Vedernikov and Torop's right-hand-man Vadim Redkin, a former drummer in a Soviet-era boy band – were arrested in the operation run by agents form Russia's FSB security services, as well as police and other agencies. All three were led to waiting helicopters by masked police.

Torop has been running his cult, the Church of the Last Testament, deep in the wilderness of Siberia since 1991. As the Soviet Union collapsed, and after the loss of his job in 1998, he claims to have experienced an "awakening" in which he adopted the persona of Jesus.
“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 in 2002.
According to Russian media, Torop originally claimed that Jesus was watching humanity from close orbit to Earth, and that the Virgin Mary was "running Russia," only later claiming to be Jesus. His community's beliefs draw on Orthodox Christianity and environmentalism, among other ideologies. Veganism is enforced, and monetary exchanged banned within the commune. Cult members dress austerely and count their calendar from 1961, the year of Torop's birth. Christmas has been replaced by a feast day on January 14, his birthday.
Although the Orthodox church has long condemned the group, officials have been content to leave them alone until now. It is unclear why they have chosen to move against his commune; Russia's investigative committee has said it will charge him with running an illegal religious organization, alleging that cult members were extorted for money and subjected to emotional abuse. Some Russian media outlets have reported that the community had clashed with local business interests.

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