Russian Cult Leader Investigated Following Flogging Claims

Moscow, September 20 – A middle-aged woman in Russia’s Ural Mountain city of Chelyabinsk is under investigation for leading a religious cult in which followers were encouraged to whip themselves to treat health ailments, local authorities said Friday.

The 41-year-old, believed to have formed the Orda (Horde) cult last year, is suspected of conducting rituals in which followers would call upon the spirits of ancestors, drink sanctified water and commit self-flagellation to help improve their health, but which would often have the opposite effect, investigators said in a statement.

The suspect, whose name has not been released, faces up to four years in prison. The sect had already been banned in July in the nearby republic of Bashkortostan, where prosecutors established that the movement had been based on a Kazakh “commercial occult group” and run as Ponzi scheme.