Russian sect leader jailed for 11 years

A Russian sect leader who called himself an alien was on Thursday sentenced to 11 years in prison after being found guilty of raping and sexually abusing his followers, authorities said.

Established in Siberia in 1989, the self-sufficient Ashram Shambala sect had branches in 19 regions as well as in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Investigators said that under the leadership of Konstantin Rudnev, the sect promoted occult practices and indulged in drug-induced orgies and ritual-based mind control.

"Initially Rudnev and his confidants conducted paid yoga seminars where they selected the most gullible people," regional investigators based in Novosibirsk said in a statement.

Afterwards future followers, mostly women between 18 and 40, were placed in the sect where rigorous physical exercises were combined with "aggressive psychological influence", investigators added.

Rudnev penned a book in which he ridiculed traditional values like having a family, studying and working, a spokeswoman for regional prosecutors in Novosibirsk, Natalya Markasova, told AFP.

National television Thursday broadcast footage of Rudnev, a pot-bellied man in his 40s, sitting inside a defendant's cage.

It also showed archive footage of a sect meeting, featuring scantily-clad women in black stockings and short dresses.

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