Russian Federal Security Forces carried out a special operation involving helicopters and armed officers to storm the sect in Siberia and arrest Torop, a former traffic policeman known to his thousands of supporters as Vissarion, and two of his collaborators.
The country’s investigative committee accused Torop, who wears long hair and a beard, of “using follower’s money and emotional abuse to inflict damage,” the Moscow Times reported.
After losing his job as a traffic cop in 1989, Torop said he experienced a “revival” that inspired him to start a movement called the Church of the Last Testament, which combines Christianity with environmentalism and other values, according to The Guardian.
“I am not God. And it’s a mistake to see Jesus as God. But I am the living word of God the Father. Everything God wants to say he says through me, ”he told the Guardian in 2002.
The cult has around 20 settlements located in the heart of the southern Siberian wilderness, home to around 4,000 followers – or “vissarionites” – according to the Moscow Times.
Authorities have also reportedly arrested Vadim Redkin, Torop’s alleged right-hand man, and another associate named Vladimir Vedernikov.
It is not immediately clear what prompted the authorities to settle in Torop. The Russian Orthodox Church has criticized the cult in the past, though the organization has remained largely indifferent, according to The Guardian.