Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday stripped down to his bathing trunks and took a dip in the icy waters of a lake to mark the feast of Epiphany, an Orthodox Christian ritual. State media showed the Russian President walking towards wooden steps of the frozen Lake Seliger in Svetlitsa village, dressed only in sheepskin coat, felt boots and swimming trunks. He took of the coat and the boots before taking a dip in the water.
The temperature of the place was reported to be around -6 degree Celsius (21 degree Fahrenheit) at the time.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesperson, said that the President had dipped in icy waters before but this was the first time he did so publicly.
Putin, who grew up under a Communist rule which frowns upon open declarations of religion, is frequently seen at Russian Orthodox ceremonies. He has also allowed the church a greater voice in Russian society.
Russia is due for polls on March 18, where Putin will be contesting for re-election to his post. He is campaigning for the elections these days. Through the ritual of Epiphany, Putin’s public display of religious fervour can be seen as an appeasement of the ardent followers of Orthodox Christianity.
This is not the first time that the Russian President has gone topless though. In August 2017, Putin was photographed on a fishing trip at a mountain lake in Siberia with his shirt off. The pictures, which showed Putin flaunting a chiselled torso, had gone viral. In August 2009, a shirtless Putin was clicked riding a horse during a holiday in Siberia.
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Ephiphany is a major holiday in Orthodox church. It marks the baptism of Jesus Christ in Jordan river. In an annual ritual to commemorate Christ’s baptism, followers immerse themselves in lakes or rivers thrice, for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In Orthodox tradition, priests bless water bodies such as lakes and rivers during the week around Epiphany. The ritual is generally observed on January 18-19. These waters are considered pure, and are believed to have healing powers.
Authorities also set up sites all over Russia where believers can take holy dips. These include Siberia where temperatures have been known to go as low as -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Russian President has been known to take great care of his physique as photos of him working out in a gymnasium surfaced in August 2015. Check out pictures of his workout session here.
(With inputs from Reuters and AP)