Russian Orthodox Christians bathe in icy waters to mark Christ's baptism

Russian Orthodox Christians have marked the day they believe Jesus Christ was baptized by bathing in icy waters amid sub-zero temperatures. The traditional ritual took place for the first time since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Believers purify themselves every year on January 19 by submerging themselves in ponds or rivers.

About 300 worshippers gathered on Thursday at a square in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the Far Eastern region of Sakhalin. The temperature was close to minus 20 degrees Celsius even during the day.

A priest offered prayers and blessed the water by dunking a cross into it. Then people plunged into the water one after another.

A 27-year-old bather said the Russian military operation is necessary to protect his motherland. But he said he wants it to end as soon as possible, and hopes that all people can live a healthy life.

A 40-year-old participant said things are nowhere near easy but he believes any difficulties will make people stronger. He said that he wants this year to be more stable.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that President Vladimir Putin also carried out the ritual bathing, but this year there are no photos or video footage of him performing it.