Putin has dipped in icy waters on the Epiphany before, but Friday marked the first time he publicly did so, Russian spokesman says.

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 -30 C (-22 F).

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