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Putin visits all-male Orthodox enclave

Do Not UseDo Not Use 28/05/2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle as he arrives at the church of the Protaton, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, in Karyes, the administrative center of the all-male Orthodox monastic community of Mount Athos, © AP Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle as he arrives at the church of the Protaton, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin, in Karyes, the administrative center of the all-male Orthodox monastic community of Mount Athos,

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the monasteries at Mount Athos, in northern Greece, one of Orthodox Christianity's holiest sites.

Orthodox monks wait to welcome Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Karyes, the capital of Mount Athos, Greece (28 May 2016): No women or female domestic animals are allowed on Mount Athos © AP No women or female domestic animals are allowed on Mount Athos

Mr Putin joined celebrations at the monastery of St Panteleimon to mark 1,000 years of Russian monks at Mount Athos.

Russian St Panteleimon Monastery, in Mount Athos, Greece (28 May 2016): The St Panteleimon Monastery has benefited from Russian investment © AFP The St Panteleimon Monastery has benefited from Russian investment

He was accompanied by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Mount Athos is an enclave of 20 monasteries. Women have been banned for over 1,000 years.

Greece and Russia are both largely Orthodox Christian countries and have close religious ties.

Why are women banned from Mount Athos?

The Russian leader travelled to the peninsula by boat, as there is no road access, and held talks with the Greek president.

As he was welcomed at the enclave's administrative centre, Karyes, Mr Putin said he was convinced that the Russian connection to Greece as well as to the holy Mount Athos "could only get stronger".

After attending a service in Karyes the Russian president travelled on to the monastery of St Panteleimon, unaccompanied by the media.

It was Mr Putin's second visit to the monastery; he travelled there in 2005 as the first Russian leader to visit the site.

Despite his background as a KGB officer in Communist times, when the Soviet state frowned on religion, he has embraced his Orthodox faith and is believed to have a good relationship with Patriarch Kirill.

Pope and Russian patriarch edge towards warmer relations

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill walks with penguins

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