Russia, Ukraine try to shield homeless from deep freeze Read more: Russia, Ukraine Try To Shield Homeless From Deep Freeze

KIEV, Ukraine -- Russia and Ukraine took extra precautions Friday to protect homeless people, ordering new facilities and medical care after scores of people have frozen to death on the streets of Europe during a brutal cold snap.

A Ukrainian woman warms herself at a fire in a Christian shelter in the industrial city of Donetsk on Friday. National authorities have set up nearly 3,000 heating and food shelters.

As the death toll from the past week rose to at least 175 on Friday, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the creation of facilities nationwide to feed and provide medical assistance to the homeless.

Russia has not reported casualty figures from the cold snap, which has gripped a large swath of the continent from Russia to Serbia and reached as far west as the Netherlands.

But Russian Deputy Health Minister Maxim Topilin was quoted by the ITAR-Tass news agency on Friday as saying that at least 64 people died from the cold in all of January.

With tens of thousands of protesters expected on the streets of Moscow today, doctors advised those taking part in the demonstrations to protect themselves from the cold as their grandmothers used to do: by wearing felt boots and smearing their faces with goose or pig fat.

Protesters also were encouraged to eat a big breakfast, preferably including meat, and refrain from drinking alcohol.

While most will be protesting against Vladimir Putin's government, others will attend a separate pro-Putin rally.

In Ukraine, the hardest-hit country, health officials have told hospitals to stop discharging the hundreds of homeless patients after they are treated for hypothermia and frostbite.

The goal is to prevent them from dying once they are released into temperatures as low as minus-26 degrees.

Authorities also have set up nearly 3,000 heating and food shelters.

Of the Ukrainians who have died since the cold weather hit Jan. 27, 64 were found frozen on the streets, 11 died in hospitals and 26 in their homes, emergency officials said.

It was so cold there that about 1,500 swans, sea gulls and ducks froze to the ice in a small harbor near Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odessa, forcing emergency workers to use ships to break up the surface and free the birds, officials said.

The week-long cold snap — Eastern Europe's worst in decades — is causing power outages, frozen water pipes and widespread closure of schools, nurseries, airports and bus routes.

Source: AP