Russians Plunge Into Icy Water to Mark Epiphany

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Orthodox Christians in Georgia and across the world are celebrating the Epiphany today, during which the Georgian Orthodox Church holds a mass baptism and conducts water blessing rituals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the Epiphany bathing ritual on Lake Seliger in the Tver region, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

After taking off a sheepskin coat and felt boots, Putin walked down wooden steps leading into the water, crossed himself and dipped his head under. The reported outside temperature was -6C.

This was the first time Putin publicly marked the Epiphany.

The Russian leader followed a custom observed by many Orthodox Christians on the feast of Epiphany-a half-naked submersion in cold water that mirrors the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth in the river Jordan.

Authorities set up bathing sites for believers all over Russian Federation, including some areas in Siberia where temperatures dipped below -30 C (-22 F).

Mr Putin requires little excuse to strip, however.

Putin was photographed with his shirt off while on a spearfishing vacation in the southern mountain lake in Siberia.

The ritual is not the first time that Putin has shown off his torso or engaged in physical activity, having previously been photographed topless riding a horse, while past year he was pictured fishing without a shirt in a mountain lake in Siberia. He was also seen riding a horse bare chested and posing by a lake in his sunglasses.

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