Great Russian Freeze Spreads West

KIEV, Ukraine -- Severe cold weather gripping large parts of Russia has now spread west, causing chaos in Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states and Scandinavia.

Smoke from a power station rises in the sky over Kiev. A severe cold snap spreading west from Russia has killed seven people in Ukraine, forced the closure of schools and mines, and strained the nation's electricity grid, officials said.

Officials in those countries say there is growing pressure on energy supplies, with power shortages as Russia cuts deliveries to fight the freeze at home.

Dozens have died of the cold, with temperatures as low as -33C (-27F) recorded.

Forecasters have said that the freeze will last several more days, and could intensify in places.

Strained grid

In eastern Ukraine, seven people have died as a result of the cold.

Miners in the area have been told not to work as conditions underground have become treacherous.

The weather has strained Ukraine's national grid, with power cuts reported in hundreds of towns.

The BBC's Helen Fawkes in the capital Kiev, where it is several degrees warmer, says some people are complaining that their homes feel chilly, saying that their heating, which is run on gas, has been reduced.

Demand is believed to have risen by 20%.

Meanwhile six people died in Latvia, where temperatures of -27C were recorded, the lowest in 100 years, AFP news agency reported.

Heavy snowfalls, high winds and cold caused problems across northern Europe, causing major disruptions to transport and power supplies.

Flights from Copenhagen airport in Denmark were suspended for two hours on Friday evening as aircraft were de-iced. Traffic is not due to return to normal until Sunday.

New cold

In the Norwegian Arctic city of Tromso more than 20,000 people were left without power after heavy snow brought down electricity cables.

Five more people died overnight in Russia's capital, Moscow, bringing the total number of dead across the country since Tuesday to more than 70.

Temperatures are expected to ease slightly over the weekend, but forecasters say more cold air will arrive from the east next week bringing a further drop.

The weather is the coldest to affect the country in more than 25 years.

Energy consumption has hit new highs as Russia struggled to keep warm in the severe winter conditions.

Many schools and businesses remained shut, electrical billboards turned off, cars were unable to start and trolley buses put out of action by snapped cables.

Source: BBC News