Putin takes an icy plunge on Epiphany

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Putin chose the waters of the frozen Lake Seliger, in the Nilo-Stolobenskaya Monastery about 250 miles north of Moscow, for his plunge.

The ritual was to mark by the Russian Orthodox Church's annual Feast of Epiphany, where millions of members immerse themselves in rivers and lakes to celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan, believing the water briefly becomes purified and heals internal wounds.

According to reports, air temperatures at the time were around 21 degrees.

Vladimir Putin, 65, put on the display - perhaps aimed at sending a chill down the spine of fellow world leaders - as he braved the icy cold wintry waters on Lake Seliger in northwestern Russian Federation.

It is the oldest Christian holiday dedicated to the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. He lowered himself into the water, made a sign of the cross and submerged himself for a moment, in a scene captured by state media.

Mr Putin approached the water in a sheepskin coat and felt boots
Mr Putin approached the water in a sheepskin coat and felt boots Alexey Druzhinin Sputnik AFP Getty Images

The Russian Orthodox Church does not require believers to go through the gruelling experience, which is more of a popular tradition.

Water blessed by a priest during Epiphany week is considered holy and pure according to Orthodox Christian tradition.

He also recalled that this is not the first time when Putin is bathing in the icy waters.

Putin holds a fish he caught during a trip to the republic of Tyva in southern Siberia, Russia, last August. That may represent an effort to appeal to religious voters ahead of the March presidential election, which comes as public support of government policies dips to its lowest in a decade.

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