As many as 27 children are being cared for by Russian social services after spending up to a decade living a forced hermitic existence in an Islamic sect.
The 70 members were kept in a underground bunker on the outskirts of the city of Kazan without heat or light.
Many of the children are said to have been born underground and have never seen daylight. Officials said they’d never been seen by a doctor.
“There is such an underground labyrinth of small spaces measuring 2m x 3m. More than 70 people were living there,” said Ranis Bakhitov from the Kazan Police Department.
Parents of several children have been arrested and charged with child abuse. Many of the youngsters have been taken to local hospitals for observation before being moved to orphanages.
Local residents have expressed their outrage at the discovery.
“That’s not a way to live. Children that don’t go to school, no education, no medical check-ups. What kind of people will they grow up to be?” said one neighbour.
Commentators say the sect is one of hundreds that could have formed since the fall of the Soviet Union.
It is named after its 83-year-old self-declared prophet.
Faizrakhman Satarov had declared his house an independent Islamic state. Only a few members ever left the building, located in the majority Muslim Russian republic of Tatarstan.
Satarov too has been arrested.