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Putin attends Christmas service at Church of Saints Simeon and Anna in St. Petersburg

January 07, 1:56 updated at: January 07, 4:14 UTC+3 ST. PETERSBURG

Putin presented the church with an icon, which dates back to the middle of the 19th century

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© Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

ST. PETERSBURG, January 7. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is attending an overnight Orthodox Christmas service at the Church of Saints Simeon and Anna in Saint Petersburg.

The Russian president arrived at the church around midnight after the service had already started and joined other worshippers, who were not aware of Putin’s plans to attend the Christmas Service in Russia’s second largest city.

However, many journalists, including from foreign media, were present in the church during the service. Saint Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko was also attending the service in the Church of Saints Simeon and Anna.

The Russian presidential press service told TASS that Putin presented the church with an icon, which dates back to the middle of the 19th century. The gift for the church is a two-row icon in a metal cover with images depicting The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Resurrection of Jesus.

As a rule Putin leaves Moscow for Christmas, while on Easter he stays in the Russian capital for a night-time service at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Last year Putin went to the Christmas service at the Spassky (St. Savior) Cathedral of the St. George’s Monastery in the city of Veliky Novgorod. In 2016 he attended the Christmas service at a rural Church near Voronezh. Before that he twice attended Christmas services in Sochi.

The Church of Saints Simeon and Anna is one of St. Petersburg's oldest churches and one of the finest examples of early baroque architecture in the city. The first wooden church was built on this site on the orders of Peter the Great in 1714, to celebrate the birth of his daughter Anna. Empress Anna of Russia, who came to the throne in 1730, also considered St. Anna to be her patron, and instructed architect Mikhail Zemtsov to design a stone replacement for the wooden church.

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