RUSSIA : Russian President Vladimir Putin and many orthodox pilgrims braved a bitter winter snap overnight to take the annual plunge into-

Icy water in a traditional ritual marking the baptism of Jesus.

In some areas, the extreme temperatures -which are in parts of Siberia dropped to minus 68 degree Celsius  [minus 90 degree Fahrenheit] -the local authorities cancelled the rite which marks  Epiphany.

Surrounded by Orthodox priests and glittering religious icons, and with the temperature hovering around minus 5 degree C-

Putin lowered himself into the freezing waters of Lake Seliger some 350 kilometres [220 miles] northwest of Moscow.

Many other Russians followed suit, submerging themselves in the in the freezing waters in a widely-observed ritual normally observed in 18-19 of January and which last year saw two million people take the plunge.

In Norilisk, a city beyond the Arctic Circle, local authorities on Thursday banned the extreme bathing rite ''for security reasons'' as temperatures hit minus 52 Celsius and strong winds whipped up a blizzard, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

- Agencies


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