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China's 'Carla Bruni' is media hit on Russia trip

Peng Liyuan is famous in her own right in China as a folk singer and television star. Credit: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping's first state visit to Russia has been given a boost by his wife Peng Liyuan, who featured extensively in Sunday's state media reports on the trip.

China's first ladies are usually kept out of the public eye and not given notable media coverage, but Liyuan is famous in her own right in the country as a folk singer and television star.

Her glamorous image and confident media presence has invited comparisons to French former first lady Carla Bruni.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan wave as they disembark from a plane upon their arrival at Moscow's Vnukovo airport. Credit: Reuters

The 50-year-old is the first high-profile leader's wife in more than half a century, since the late actress Jiang Qing, who was married to Chairman Mao Zedong.

Given China's famously secretive Communist leadership, Liyuan's presence is widely seen as a positive addition to the party.


Russian Orthodox Christians plunge into freezing river

Russian Orthodox Christians have been plunging into the river in Moscow through a hole in the ice as part of an annual ritual.

The age-old ritual commemorates the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, or the Epiphany, which the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates today.

Many of those who braved the minus 13°C temperatures also believe that taking a dip in freezing cold water has health benefits.


Kofi Annan visits Moscow for Syria talks

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is in Moscow for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, which has crucial influence over diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed in Syria.

Peace envoy Kofi Annan is seeking to shore up support for his efforts to end a year of fighting in Syria where 8,000 people have been killed in an anti-government uprising.

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