At least 57 members of an Islamist sect, including children, have been discovered living underground in the Republic of Tatarstan, according to Russian police.
Many of them have never even seen the sun, authorities said.
The sect members, which includes at least 19 children ages 1 to 17, were freed. They were found August 1 during a police raid performed as part of an ongoing investigation into militant groups in Tatarstan. The bunker, which appeared to be made of decrepit concrete blocks, has multiple levels below ground with tight-quartered cells that have no light, ventilation or heat.
The leader of the sect is reportedly Fayzrahman Satarov, an 83-year-old who pronounced himself a prophet destined to direct a caliphate, according to a report by Russia state TV channel Vesti.
Amid chants of defiance, police detained Satarov and some other members, and they are facing charges.
Russian media reports say his followers lived in isolation, refusing to recognize Russian laws or the authority of mainstream Muslim leaders in Tatastan.
The bunker is located near the city of Kazan in Tatarstan, about 500 miles from Moscow.
Tatarstan is majority Muslim and oil rich.
Shireen T. Hunter is a noted scholar on Islam and Russia, and is the director of the Carnegie Project on Reformist Islam at Georgetown University. She has visited Tatarstan and Kazan several times to do research.
It's important, she said, to keep in mind that little is known about the group and simply because the leader identifies himself as Islamist, there should not be immediate connections drawn between the group and Islam in the area as a whole.
"This could just be some 83-year-old who wants to control people," she said. "This may have nothing at all to do with radical or extreme Islam as we understand it. This man - creating a caliphate? How is he going to do that? This just doesn't seem like the modis operandi of a serious radical cell bent on challenging the government."
Kazan is a pleasant city with coffee and clothing shops, Hunter said. Some women wear hijabs, others don't. Some women work and other choose not to, she said. In recent years, many people have bought villas and other housing in Kazan.
It's conceivable to her that a group could live underground and go unnoticed for years.
"If I decided to live underground in Washington, D.C., I could do that, and so could other people," she said.
Health worker Tatiana Moroz told CNN that the children are in "satisfactory condition" and that they have been fed. Some were sent to the hospital for care.
"Upon receipt from the building, the children were in satisfactory condition," she said. "The children were all fed, although they were dirty. Upon receiving them, we washed them. They have undergone a full examination - all the Russian specialists have examined them, and taken all the analyses. [Friday] the full analyses will be finished and we will give our final conclusion about the condition of their health."
CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report.
Russia and China vetoed a new U.N. Security Council resolution Thursday that would have imposed new sanctions on the Syrian regime.
Western countries have been pushing for a resolution that threatens sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad if government forces don't stop attacks.
However, Russia has opposed any international effort that would blame, punish or change the leadership of the Syrian government. Russia and China have vetoed two previous draft resolutions in the U.N. Security Council, leading to accusations that Russia is protecting the Syrian regime.
The resolution also calls for renewing the 300-member U.N. observer mission for 45 days after it was suspended because of violence.
Russia has put forward its own draft, which "strongly urges all parties in Syria to cease immediately all armed violence in all its forms."
U.S. President Barack Obama called his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to discuss the Syrian situation, the White House said in a statement Wednesday.
"They noted the differences our governments have had on Syria, but agreed to have their teams continue to work toward a solution," it said.FULL STORY
A ship carrying military helicopters to Syria is returning to Russia, but will ultimately deliver the shipment to Syria, Russia announced Thursday.
Jordan, meanwhile, announced that a pilot in the Syrian military who fled with his jet will be granted asylum.
The Russian ship - part of an international row over Russia arming Syria - was forced to turn back after a British company withdrew its insurance coverage due to the nature of the cargo.
In recent days, reports surfaced about the ship. On Thursday, Russia announced it was carrying "Syrian attack helicopters," state-run news agency Ria Novosti reported.FULL STORY
[Updated at 11:26 a.m. ET] A Russian cargo ship reported to be carrying arms to Syria is turning back, Britain's top diplomat said Tuesday.
"I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has turned back apparently towards Russia," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons.
U.S. officials have said that the Russian operator Femco's cargo ship, MV Alaed, was headed for Syria with attack helicopters and munitions for the al-Assad regime from the port of Kaliningrad. The vessel had been off the north coast of Scotland, according to ship tracking data.
Hague commented on a ship during questions about the fighting in Syria during a wide-ranging House of Commons question-and-answer session about foreign policy. He didn't name the vessel.FULL STORY
[Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET] U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the conflict in Syria and "agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war."
In comments to reporters after almost two hours of talks, Obama said he and Putin had "candid, thoughtful and through conversation" about various issues including Syria and Iran.
On Syria, Obama said he and Putin "pledged to work with other international actors including the United Nations" and its special envoy, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Obama and Putin are in Los Cabos, Mexico, for the two-day Group of 20 summit involving leaders of 20 of the world's leading economies.
The United Nations announced Saturday it was pulling back its unarmed monitors from Syria because escalating violence was hampering the monitors' ability to observe and verify reports.
Syrian opposition groups say more than 13,000 people have been killed since President Bashar al-Assad's government started cracking down on anti-government protesters last year. The United Nations' latest estimate puts the death toll at more than 10,000. CNN cannot independently verify government and opposition claims of casualties because the Syrian government has restricted access by international journalists.FULL STORY
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched in Moscow on Tuesday, rejecting the legitimacy of President Vladimir Putin and demanding new elections, a prominent opposition leader said.
"We believe that his presidency right now is not legitimate at all," former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told CNN from the rally.
The elections in March that returned Putin to the presidency after four years as prime minister "were not free, they were not fair and the results were not credible," Kasyanov said.
The only thing that Putin should do now is "sit with us on a round table and discuss the terms and conditions of his departure," Kasyanov said.
International observers said in March that the elections did not meet international standards. The presidential election came just months after allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections prompted the largest anti-government demonstrations Russia had seen in two decades.FULL STORY
Indonesian authorities said Wednesday that they had found part of the flight recorder of the Russian passenger jet that crashed into the side of a volcano during a demonstration flight last week, killing 45 people.
Searchers retrieved the cockpit voice recorder, which records communication between pilots and air traffic controllers, but have so far been unable to locate the flight data recorder, said Vice Marshal Daryatmo, head of the National Search and Rescue Agency.
He said the voice recorder would be brought to Jakarta for analysis.
Rescue workers found no survivors from the Sukhoi Superjet 100, Russia's newest passenger plane, which slammed into Mount Salak after disappearing from radar screens on May 9.
Most of the wreckage of the plane is on a steep slope at an altitude of 6,000 feet, making it difficult to reach.FULL STORY
A Russian passenger airliner went missing Wednesday after it disappeared from radar screens over a mountainous region of Indonesia.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100, Russia's newest civilian airliner, was carrying 42 passengers and eight Russian crew members, said Sunaryo, an official with Sukhoi's Indonesian agent, Trimarga Rekatama.
However, the number was in dispute. The Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency said only 37 of the 42 invited passengers were on board. Russian state-run news agencies reported 44 people were on the plane.
Ground teams were continuing to search. The air search will resume at daylight, depending on the weather.FULL STORY
The world's only known all-white male killer whale has been spotted in the Pacific Ocean off Russia, scientists announced Monday.
The orca, dubbed "Iceberg" by the scientists, was spotted swimming with a pod of 12 others. Iceberg has a 6.5-foot-high dorsal fin and is at least 16 years old, according to a blog post by Erich Hoyt, co-director of the Far East Russia Orca Project.
The pod was spotted by scientists from universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg in the waters around the Commander Islands off the Kamchatka Peninsula. The area is part of a marine reserve.
Russia took a big step Tuesday to try to save the Amur leopard, the world's most endangered cat, with just 40 believed left in the wild.
The country is establishing a new national park in Russia's Far East that encompasses about 60% of the endangered cat's habitat and all of its breeding areas, according to a statement from the World Wildlife Fund announcing the park. The organization has been pushing for establishment of the Land of the Leopard National Park since 2001.
“Amur leopards are literally teetering on the brink of extinction,” Sybille Klenzendorf, head of the WWF’s species program, said in a statement. “With the establishment of Land of the Leopard National Park, in conjunction with other conservation efforts, we can now start to focus on how to begin bringing them back.”
The cats are also known as the Far East leopard, the Manchurian leopard or the Korean leopard. They live in the temperate forests in Russia's Far East between Vladivostok and the border with China and endure extreme winters with the help of pelts that triple in length during the cold months, according to the WWF's website on the leopards.
The leopards have a life span of 10 to 15 years in the wild. Large males can weigh up to 165 pounds, with the average male topping out at about 100 pounds. Females are about 95 pounds at their largest, according to the WWF.
The 650,000-acre park will include sites for ecotourism as well as protected areas, according to the WWF statement. The Russian government is spending about $16.6 million for its development.
Ten Amur, or Siberian, tigers, also an endangered species, are also believed to live in the park, according to the WWF. The tiger species also once numbered about 40 individuals in the wild, but the population has recovered to 450 individuals today with preservation efforts, giving hope to the leopard plans, according to the WWF.
The convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout faces the possibility of life in prison at his sentencing in a federal court in New York on Thursday.
Last year, Bout, who's been dubbed "the merchant of death" by his accusers, was convicted on four counts of conspiracy to kill Americans, acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles and provide material support to a terrorist organization.
At the trial, the prosecution said that during a 2008 sting operation by U.S. drug enforcement agents in Thailand, Bout believed he was selling weapons to Colombian guerrillas.
Bout, whose life is considered to have inspired the 2005 Nicolas Cage movie "Lord of War," faces 25 years to life in prison.FULL STORY
A twin-engine plane carrying 43 people crashed upon takeoff in Siberia on Monday, killing all but 11 people on board, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency said.
The plane had taken off from the city of Tyumen and traffic control lost contact with it immediately afterward, the news agency said.
The ATR-72 plane was carrying 39 passengers and four crew members.
Thirty two of them died, including all four crew members, the news agency said.
The 11 survivors were in intensive care, RIA-Novosti said.
Authorities could not immediately say what caused the crash. Officials have recovered the plane's data recorders, which will help shed light on what happened in the flight's final minutes.FULL STORY
Editor's Note: This post is a recap of the top five videos on CNN.com from the past week. So in case you didn't catch our best videos during the week, here is your chance to see what you missed.
The most watched video on CNN.com this week was the surveillance video of George Zimmerman in handcuffs after the Trayvon Martin shooting. Following as the second most popular video was a firsthand account of the erratic Jet Blue pilot who was subdued by passengers. Rounding out the top five are a heart-warming reunion between a soldier and an excited dog, a teen signing sensation, and finally, an open mic mishap from President Obama. Check out the videos below and see what everyone else was watching this week on CNN.com.
Police surveillance video shows George Zimmerman arriving at the police department in handcuffs the night of shooting.
A JetBlue passenger describes the incident that caused a flight to be diverted.
A dog can't contain himself after seeing his owner come home from Afghanistan.
Jonathan Antoine's booming opera voice leaves judges on "Britain's Got Talent" pronouncing him the next Pavarotti.
An open mic catches President Obama seeking help from Russia's outgoing president for NATO's missile defense.
Follow us on Twitter: @CNNVideo
GOP candidate Mitt Romney wasted no time attacking Obama's now-controversial "open-mic" comment with Russia's leader.
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer why he lashed out at a New York Times reporter.
Chaka Khan talks to Piers Morgan about the Trayvon Martin case.
The U.N. Security Council focused Monday on the crisis in Syria, with the United States and Britain pushing for quick action on a resolution and Russia warning against a "take-it-or-leave-it" approach.
All sides called for an immediate end to the violence.
"There is a growing understanding of the need not to talk to each other on the basis of take-it-or-leave-it, but bring the positions together and be guided not by the desire of revenge, of punishment, who is to blame and so on and so forth, but by the basic interests of the Syrian people," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters after the Security Council met. "And this requires an immediate end of violence as the number one priority."
Lavrov invoked the specter of Libya, whose government was overthrown last year after U.N. Security Council resolutions authorizing NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone to protect innocent civilians led to widespread bombing of Libyan military forces.FULL STORY
A plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been foiled, Russia's state-run Channel One TV reported Monday, less than a week before presidential elections that Putin is expected to win.
Citing unnamed sources, the report said a group of plotters was arrested in the Ukrainian city of Odessa in early January and, after weeks of questioning, confessed to planning to kill the Russian leader.
The TV report included what it said was a confession by a fixer associated with the two men who were seized in Odessa.
"The final task was to go to Moscow and carry out an assassination attempt on the premier Putin," the man, Adam Osmayev, said.
The plot allegedly involved a plan for a suicide bomber, and was organized by Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov, Channel One reported.
CNN has not independently confirmed the existence of the plot.
The announcement comes a week ahead of this Sunday's presidential election.FULL STORY
Russian scientists say they've grown a flowering plant from material extracted from seeds deposited in the Siberian permafrost 30,000 years ago.
The work of the scientists at the Institute of Cell Biophysics in Russia is creating a worldwide buzz after being published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States.
Previously, the oldest known seed material that has been able to produce life was from about 2,000 years ago, science writer Ed Yong reports in a Discover magazine blog giving details of the work of the Russian breakthrough.
The plants, named silene stenophylla, are from a time when wooly mammoths and saber-tooth cats lived in Siberia. Their 300-century path to life began when squirrels brought the fruit of the plant and the immature seeds the fruit contained into a riverbank burrow. As the climate cooled, the burrow was covered with layers of ice and the seeds were preserved by temperatures of minus-7 degrees Celsius (19.4 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Yong's report.
Russian scientists briefly pierced the two-mile-thick veil over a freshwater lake hidden beneath Antarctica's ice sheet for millions of years, polar researchers announced Wednesday.
Scientists hope samples of Lake Vostok, a body the size of Lake Ontario, will yield signs of previously undiscovered life and new clues about the history of the planet. The lake is believed to have been covered by ice for up to 30 million years.
Russian researchers completed the drilling effort Sunday, reaching the lake at a depth of 3,769 meters (2.3 miles) into the ice, the St. Petersburg-based Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute reported.
When the ice above the lake was breached, lake water was sucked up into the bore and froze, the Russians said. That will allow researchers to take samples back to the surface without contaminating the lake below, they said.FULL STORY
Alcohol has been involved in most of the deaths blamed on the extreme cold in Ukraine, the country worst affected by the icy temperatures gripping eastern Europe, the country's emergencies minister said Wednesday.
Nine out of 10 of the deaths reported have been alcohol-related, the country's Emergency Situations Minister Viktor Baloga said.
At least 135 deaths have been reported in Ukraine in the past two weeks, but he suggested the actual number that can be blamed on the winter weather is somewhat lower, at 112.
Authorities in Ukraine have set up an emergency hospital to deal with people suffering from cold-related conditions, and distributed 3,000 emergency relief tents across the country, they said. The tents are heated, and people with nowhere else to go can get hot food and drinks.FULL STORY
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Damascus on Tuesday to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, days after world leaders accused Russia of helping give the Syrian government a green light to kill more civilians.
While attempts at diplomacy have so far failed to curb the estimated thousands of deaths in the 11-month conflict, residents and opposition activists say they are desperate for international help in stopping the regime from slaughtering dissidents.
But Syrian state-run TV showed throngs of people waving Russian and Syrian flags in Damascus - highlighting the stark contrast in perception of what is happening in the country.
At least 128 were killed nationwide Monday, mostly in the besieged city of Homs, according to the opposition Syrian Revolution General Commission.
"The situation is beyond description," the commission said in a statement. "Some of these martyrs were killed with shrapnel and the others were under the rubble, and their bodies couldn't be identified because they were in remains."FULL STORY