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'Jesus of Siberia' Arrested

Self-proclaimed Messiah accused of extortion
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 23, 2020 1:58 PM CDT

(Newser) – Sergei Torop isn't the Messiah but rather a very naughty man, according to authorities in Siberia. The traffic cop-turned-cult leader, also known as "Vissarion the Teacher" and "Jesus of Siberia," was arrested Tuesday in a special operation involving the military and several Russian law enforcement agencies, AFP reports. The 59-year-old, who founded the Church of the Last Testament as the Soviet regime collapsed three decades ago, is accused of extorting money from his thousands of followers and emotionally abusing them. Two aides, including former boyband member Vadim Redkin, were also arrested, reports the Guardian.

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Authorities say Torop, who has claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus, and his aides will be charged with running an illegal religious organization and causing "two or more people severe harm." He was arrested in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk region, where thousands of his followers live in remote settlements. Torop's teachings blend Russian Orthodox beliefs with Buddhism and environmental principles. His followers, who call themselves "Vissarionites," are required to be vegan and to abstain from using money. They count years starting from Topov's birth year, 1961, and celebrate his birthday instead of Christmas. (Read more cult stories.)

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