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Russia’s Attorney General files for dissolution of messianic sect following arrest of its leader

Russia’s Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit with the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court requesting the dissolution of the Church of the Last Testament, a religious organization based in Siberia, also known as the “Vissarion commune.” 

The lawsuit comes just a few days after the arrest of the sect’s leaders. Law enforcement officials arrested the head of the commune, Vissarion, whose legal name is Sergey Torop, during an operation in Krasnoyarsk Krai on September 22. Two of his associates, Vladimir Vedyornikov and Vadim Redkin, were arrested as well. The three men stand accused of creating a religious organization that uses violence and inflicting grievous bodily harm. Sergey Torop insists that he’s not guilty.

In its statement, the Attorney General’s Office says that according to experts, “Vissarion’s teachings allow the recognition of deviant behavior, in particular, suicide and denial of medical care, promoting addictive behavior, sexual misconduct, and disregarded for accepted marriage norms.”

The Attorney General’s Office also found that members of the commune were prohibited from expressing their thoughts, desires, and needs, “under the threat of social stigma, developing a strong sense of guilt, and banishment from the community.” The department believes that the organization has done psychological harm to its members.

The Attorney General’s Office filed the lawsuit on Friday, September 25. When the case will come under review remains unknown.

Former district police officer Sergey Torop founded the Church of the Last Testament in 1991. Four years later, Russia’s Justice Ministry officially registered it as a religious organization. The Church of the Last Testament is essentially a messianic cult; Vissarion’s followers believe he is the reincarnation of Jesus of Nazareth.

According to various reports, Vissarion has between two and five thousand followers, who are concentrated in several villages in the south of Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai. The commune relies on subsistence farming, practices traditional medicine, and allows polygamy. The sect’s followers are banned from smoking, drinking, and exchanging money. However, according to the state news agency TASS, three million rubles (more than $38,000) worth of expensive alcohol, gold jewelry, and weapons were found during recent raids of the community.

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