Putin observes Christmas at 13th century island church

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin attended Orthodox Christmas services Wednesday at a small 13th century church on an island.

During two decades in power, Putin generally has marked Christmas outside Moscow, often at relatively little-known provincial churches.

The Russian Orthodox Church, like many other Orthodox churches, observes Christmas on Jan. 7, with main services starting late on Christmas Eve.

Putin on Wednesday went to the Saint Nikolai on Lipno Church, on an island in the river delta near Veliky Novgorod, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northwest of Moscow. The small stone church is a UNESCO-listed heritage site.

The Russian Orthodox Church held its main midnight Christmas service at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, an elaborate ceremony with dozens of clerics led by church head Patriarch Kirill chanting and holding long candles while masked worshipers watched.

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