Who is 'Jesus of Siberia', the Cult Leader Arrested for Extortion and Emotional Abuse in Russia?
Sergei Topov aka Vissarion aka Jesus of Siberia | File Photo | Credit: Reuters
In a special operation launched by Russian authorities, armed officers swooped down in helicopters to arrest a cult leader who claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus. The operation involved members of the FSB security service and other law enforcement agencies.
Sergei Torop, 59, a former traffic police officer, was arrested along with two of his aides by Russian federal security forces in Siberia. Torop, known to his thousands of followers as Vissarion, will face charges of running an illegal religious organization, extorting money and emotional abuse of his cult members.
The movement/cult started by Torop during the same time as Soviet regime began to collapse. He claimed that it was this time when he experienced an “awakening”. The cult is now known as the Church of the Last Testament and has thousands of followers who live across in a series of remote hamlets scattered across the Krasnoyarsk region in Siberia. It also includes professionals from across Russia as well as pilgrims from abroad.
The Russian Investigative Committee accused Torop, who sports long hair and a beard, for using “its members’ money and psychological violence” against them, causing “serious harm” to some members’ health, the Moscow Times reported.
According to Russian media reports, Vissarion claimed “Russia is run by the Virgin Mary” and Jesus was watching over people from an orbit close to Earth, and, but later he declared himself to be Jesus.
Torop, who was produced in court on Tuesday, September 22, has told media persons that he pleads not guilty to the charges imposed on him, terming them as “unbelievable.”
The cult has been condemned by the Russian Orthodox Church. However, the organization remained largely indifferent. It is unclear what prompted the Russian authorities to arrest Torop now and what will happen to the disciples of the cult since their leader’s arrest.