Shirtless Vladimir Putin takes dip in icy Russian lake

Image: Putin bathes in an ice-cold water on Epiphany
Russian President Vladimir Putin bathes in an ice-cold water on Epiphany near the St. Nilus Stolobensky Monastery on Lake Seliger in Svetlitsa, Russia, on Jan. 19, 2018.Alexei Druzhinin / Kremlin via AP

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/ Source: Associated Press

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a dip in icy lake waters to celebrate Epiphany, a major holiday in Orthodox Christianity marking the baptism of Jesus.

Russian television stations have shown the 65-year-old Putin approaching a hole cut in the ice on Lake Seliger in northwestern Russia and then dunking himself in and crossing himself.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president had dipped in icy waters on the Epiphany before, but Friday marked the first time he publicly did so.

In Orthodox tradition, water blessed by a priest during Epiphany week is considered holy and pure, and believers attribute healing powers to it.

Authorities set up bathing sites for believers all over Russia, including some areas in Siberia where temperatures dipped below -22 F.