Vladimir Putin visits Mount Athos, all-male Orthodox enclave

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (3R) during a visit to the monastic community of Mount Athos, in Karyes on May 28, 2016.Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Putin (centre) met the Greek President Prokopis Pavlopouos (in striped tie) during his trip to Mount Athos

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

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

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.

Media caption,

Mount Athos and other sacred sites where women are banned

Image source, AP
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No women or female domestic animals are allowed on 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.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The St Panteleimon Monastery has benefited from Russian investment