Russian authorities have arrested a man who claims to be the reincarnation of Christ. Helicopters and armed officers were deployed to locate and arrest cult leader Sergei Torop, who has run a series of obscure communities in outer Siberia for the last three decades.
Russia’s investigative committee announced charges against Torop related to organising an illegal religious organisation, extorting money from followers and subjecting them to emotional abuse. The special operation involved agents from Russia’s FSB security service as well as police and other agencies. Torop was whisked off by masked troops into a nearby helicopter, along with his right-hand man, Vladimir Vedernikov.
The leader founded the group now known as Church of the Last Testament back in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing - Torop said he'd had an "awakening" and began to recruit followers.
“I am not God. And it is a mistake to see Jesus as God," he told the Guardian in 2002. "But I am the living word of God the father. Everything that God wants to say, he says through me." He is known to his followers as Vissarion, which is purported to mean "He who gives life". He also considers Mary, mother of Jesus, to be his own mother. He has six children by two wives, one of whom was 19 when he wedded her.
Thousands of people from all walks of life live in the remote settlements under Torop, where veganism is enforced and members are prohibited from exchanging money with each other. His religion is a mishmash of elements taken from the Russian Orthodox Church, Buddhism, apocalypticism, collectivism, and ecological values.