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Russia feels the cold, and it’ll get colder

Extreme cold across Russia has cut oil output and sparked warnings of power cuts, officials said on Tuesday, as record low temperatures shocked even hardy Russians.
/ Source: Reuters

Extreme cold across Russia has cut oil output and sparked warnings of power cuts, officials said on Tuesday, as record low temperatures shocked even hardy Russians.

One small Moscow stock exchange suspended trading on Tuesday when the city’s temperature fell to -4 Fahrenheit.

Russia’s chief meteorologist said 2006 would be Moscow’s coldest winter since 1979. The legendary frosts that destroyed the armies of Napoleon and Adolf Hitler are relatively rare despite the country’s wintry reputation.

“I think this winter will stick in people’s memories as having been very cold,” said Roman Vilfard. Temperatures in the capital would plunge to -34 Fahrenheit by the weekend, he said.

In the Western Siberian town of Surgut, in Russia’s oil-producing heartland, temperatures have fluctuated around that over the past week.

Oil production from the region fell as the extreme cold meant oil had frozen some oil wells solid, the Energy Ministry said.

Production traditionally declines in January and February due to the cold. But it has never fallen so sharply in recent years and the plunge could well damage production figures in the longer term.

Moscow’s power company Mosenergo was preparing for a spike in demand as people plugged in electric heaters to keep warm.

It said it would try to maintain supply to schools, hospitals and other key buildings but might be forced to cut off some less crucial industries.

Moscow city spokesmen said police would be “more humane” towards homeless people, and would check train stations, attics and other places where the homeless gather and try to encourage them to come in from the cold.

The zoo had brought animals inside, and spread straw on the ice to stop aquatic birds being frozen in while city buses had been issued with special diesel designed for use in the Arctic.