14/08/2014 16:54 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Breastfeeding Expert Arrested For Running A 'Cult' In Russia

Baby breastfeeding from his mother

A breastfeeding expert in Russia has been arrested on suspicion of being a cult leader.

Zhanna Tsaregradskaya often appeared on television to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and natural birth, but in what appears to be a government crackdown, the campaigner was detained by the country's counter-extremism police claiming the pre-natal facility was 'a sect with a strict hierarchical structure'.

While breast feeding is encouraged in the West, it is contrary to common practice in Soviet and Russian medicine.

Tsaregradskaya is the director of the Rozhana Centre, in Kaluga, near Moscow, which was established in 1989 and helped re-introduce home births in Russia, offers training courses for midwives and expectant mothers interested in having a home birth.

Police revealed they have charged Tsaregradskaya on two counts - one of 'creating a non-commercial organisation that encroaches on the personalities and rights of citizens' and a second of 'the incitement of hatred and hostility'.

If convicted, Tsaregradskaya faces up to seven years in prison. Investigators claim she 'steered mothers away from traditional principles'.

The statement went on to say the centre's 'followers', thought to number 14, were taught to 'reject the family as a social institution, to act negatively toward their spouses (men), to refuse medical help, education, work and military service'.

It said the centre used 'physical and psychological violence' to maintain control over its followers, teaching them disobedience towards the norms of society.

A co-ordinator at the centre said: "We provide free phone consultations to mothers who are having trouble breast-feeding, or who simply want to know more about it.

"We have no idea why our director has been singled out like this. Maybe it's just a fear of the unfamiliar."