Russians, Ukrainians take icy dip to mark Epiphany

STORY: The Russian Orthodox Church marks the Epiphany on January 19, but celebration starts the day before.

Russia's emergencies ministry estimated some 1.5 million people had taken part in Epiphany ice-swimming activities throughout Thursday at over 3,300 ice pools - traditionally a cross shape cut into the ice where people then cross themselves, before entering the water and fully submerging themselves three times.

In Ukraine, believers attended a service in Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra shortly after the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) took control of it from a rival church with alleged ties to Russia.

Ukraine has about 30 million Orthodox believers, divided between different church communities. The war, now in its 11th month, has led many Ukrainians to rally round the OCU, which they see as more pro-Ukrainian than its rival, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).