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    Vladimir Putin celebrates Christmas


    by ODN


    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has attended midnight mass in the church of the Intercession of the Mother of God in the small village of Turginovo in Russia's Tver region.

    Putin's ancestors have lived in Turginovo since the 17th century, with his grandmother buried at the local cemetery.

    Putin has visited Turginovo many times. The village was totally burned down as result of forest fires, and has since been completely rebuilt.

    According to Russia's state-run news agency, RIA-Novosti, the church was restored three years ago, with Putin partly funding the reconstruction with his own money.

    The Russian premier talked to parishioners as they celebrated Christmas. A local official presented him with a sweater which he wore during the mass.

    Patriarch Kirill led the evening's mass at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in the Russian capital Moscow.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife Svetlana joined the congregation of more than 5,000 for the mass which was broadcast on national television.

    Orthodox Christmas was proclaimed a public holiday in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    It is estimated that some 30,000 Russian Orthodox churches around the world will mark Christmas on January 7 as well as other churches that still use the Julian calendar.