Missing Brazilian found living in Siberian forest: police

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Russian police and Interpol have found a Brazilian woman who disappeared four years ago living in a religious community deep in a Siberian forest, officials said Wednesday.

Ustina Chernishoff, who had been on Interpol's missing persons list since June, was discovered in a village inhabited by Orthodox Old Believers, a group that broke away from the main Russian Orthodox Church.

Chernishoff, 23, a descendant of Old Believers who fled Russia during the revolution, had left her mother in Brazil four years ago to explore her roots with her father, Krasnoyarsk regional police said on their website.

Her Interpol page indicates that Chernishoff had disappeared in August 2007 but police said she had stayed in contact with her mother until several months ago.

After staying in an Old Believer community for some time, her father moved on to Canada, leaving Chernishoff "in a small settlement deep in the taiga" in the vast and sparsely populated northern region, the police statement said.

"All this time she was working in the household and copying sacred Kerzhak texts," the statement said, referring to Old Believer religious communities banished to Siberia from central Russia in the 18th century.

Chernishoff had vastly overextended her one-month tourist visa, and her mother called police after she stopped hearing from her daughter.

Police footage showed Chernishoff in a very long loose-fitting dark dress with her hair in a long braid, quietly picking at her nails and barely speaking during questioning from investigators.

Old Believers splintered away from the main Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century and were persecuted for centuries, often by being exiled to desolate faraway lands for their beliefs.

They still maintain churches both in Russia and across the world, as well as settlements that are often isolated and retain very traditional lifestyle.

In Krasnoyarsk region, Old Believers live mostly in settlements down the mighty Yenisei river up to 400 kilometres (250 miles) away from the nearest town, said a local official at the nearest district centre of Turukhansk, Viktor Smirnov.

"They are very hard to get in touch with," he told AFP.

A representative at the Brazilian embassy in Moscow said Chernishoff was due to be deported to Brazil on Tuesday but had no further comment amid the festivities surrounding Brazil's Independence Day on September 7.

© 2011 AFP

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