Photos of the Russian president braving ice-cold water were released by the Kremlin yesterday, showing the 68-year-old taking a plunge in temperatures around -20 degrees Celsius.
Sauntering out of a log cabin in swimming togs and a sheepskin coat, Vladimir Putin took a dip in the cruciform pool surrounded by snow.
While Putin is known for his topless photo ops, the president was not alone in taking a winter swim. The Epiphany swim is a folk tradition for the Russian Orthodox church, which marks the baptism of Jesus Christ. The Russian Orthodox marks the event on 19 January – while much of the country is still in deepest winter.
In the Communist-era open celebration of religious events such as Epiphany were frowned upon, and it is only recently that the tradition of a winter baptism has returned.
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There are roughly 90 million Russian Orthodox Christians.
At the end of the Christmas season, it is closely tied to New Year celebrations. Traditionally brave bathers must baptise themselves not once, but three times to honour the Holy Trinity.
While recently the practice is done increasingly for health-reasons and a show of hardiness – originally the symbolic practice is to represent a washing away of sins.
The photo comes in the midst of controversy two days after the arrest of political opponent Alexei Navalny at Sheremety Airport, after returning to Russia following an attempted poisoning.
More of the president's more famous pin-up moments include a spot of topless fishing in 2017 and bareback horse riding while on holiday in 2019.
Outside of religious ceremonies Russia is big on ice swimming. The Walrus or 'Morzh' winter swimming clubs of Vladivastok are famous for digging their own swimming pools in frozen lakes and sea ice.