By Mary Ilyushina and Rob Picheta, CNN
(CNN) Russian President Vladimir Putin has braved ice-cold temperatures for an Epiphany Dip in a pool outside of Moscow, according to a video andphotos posted by the Kremlin press pool on Tuesday.
In the footage, the 68-year-old is seen exiting a log cabin wearing a long sheepskin coat, disrobing and submerging himself three times in a cross-shaped pool crowned with an ice-carved Crucifixion statue.
Temperatures in the Moscow region have been at around -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past week.
Celebrated on January 19, Epiphany Day commemorates the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. On Epiphany, water is considered holy, and many people across Russia and Eastern Europe take a dip as a sign of their Orthodox Christian faith.
The tradition is widely believed to bring good health, toughen one’s immune system and wash away sins.
Putin’s photo op comes as Russia works to ramp up vaccination efforts and bring its coronavirus outbreak under control, and days after his political rival Alexei Navalny was arrested on his return to Moscow.
Putin’s blue swimming trunks in the footage were noticed across Russian social media, given their similarity to the missing blue underwear allegedly used to poison Navalny with nerve-agent Novichok last year.
Navalny has told CNN that he is certain Putin knew of an elaborate shadowing operation by elite agents before he was poisoned. The Kremlin has previously denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning.
Putin’s icy dip isn’t the first time he has stripped down in public. In 2018, he bathed in the icy waters of Lake Seliger to mark Epiphany. He’s also been photographed topless while fishing in 2017 and bare-chested as he rode a horse on vacation in 2009.