vissarion
© Ruptly
Footage screenshot
Police in Siberia have arrested three leaders of the notorious 'Church of the Last Testament' religious sect on suspicion of using psychological violence to extract income, resulting in "serious harm" to their followers.

Founded in 1991, the movement forbids its adherents from smoking, drinking or exchanging money, and they live as vegetarian subsistence farmers. The sect's creator, Sergey Torop, believes he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ and brands himself as 'Vissarion'.

According to Russia's Investigative Committee, Torop, along with other leaders Vadim Redkin and Vladimir Vedernikov, will be charged with "creating a religious association whose activities involve violence against citizens."

The three men were arrested in the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk, about 4,500 km (2796 miles) east of Moscow. The area has several villages built by followers of Vissarion, including one called Tiberkul, commonly known as "the City of the Sun," which was constructed in 1995.

A member of the religious organization, Alexander Staroverov, posted several videos on Facebook showing masked men walking around the village, some of whom were armed.

The sect came under legal scrutiny on two separate occasions in 2020. In February, members of the church were interrogated as part of an investigation into corruption and fraud in the Istoki School, attended by the children of Vissarion's followers. In August, a criminal case was opened after representatives of Vissarion prevented journalists from filming inside the community.

The Church of the Last Testament became well known in the West in 2012, when Vice News released a documentary on its Youtube channel called 'Siberian Cult Leader Thinks He's Jesus'. In 2014, a similar documentary called 'Siberian 'Messiah' was filmed by RT.