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23 Mar, 2013 15:04

APCs deployed on Kiev streets, emergency as record snowfall turns Ukraine into chaos (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

A state of emergency has been declared in Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Saturday as the city is paralyzed by heavy snowfall and blizzard totally abnormal for March.

"Due to the deterioration of weather conditions [heavy snowfall, blizzards, snow-banks] a state of emergency is declared in the capital," the statement by the Kiev State Administration said.

The head of the city’s administration, Aleksandr Popov, said that the state of emergency won’t be lifted in the Ukrainian capital for at least a week.

“All the necessary funds from the state budget will be attracted in order to provide maximum cars for snow removal before the warm spell comes and it starts melting,” Popov is cited as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.

The situation in the city is so dire that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has signed a special decree urging all government agencies to provide maximum assistance to victims of the snowstorm.

The military is also involved in rescuing the city from its snowbound condition as 550 servicemen are deployed to the capital to aid the community services.

Besides 253 snow-cleaning vehicles, 13 armored fighting vehicles are being used to tow stranded cars, with 270 trucks, 540 cars, 83 buses and 15 trolleybuses already removed from snow banks.

An elderly man walks near snow covered cars during a heavy storm in the Ukraine capital Kiev on March 23, 2013. (AFP Photo/Sergei Supinsky)

The government has created a crisis center to tackle the snowfalls, which is being personally overseen by Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov.

“In these difficult conditions, the government calls on everybody to show orderliness, self-restraint, cooperativeness, humanity and, if possible, to join the clean-up efforts in the aftermath of the bad weather, to help each other in tough situations," the government’s statement said.

In just one day Kiev saw over 50 centimeters of snowfall - while the entire monthly norm is 47 centimeters.

Motorists push a car that is stuck in snow during a blizzard in Ukrainian capital Kiev March 23, 2013. (Reuters)

Community services are ordered to work around the clock, with priority given to cleaning the approaches to the Metro stations and subway stairs, as well entrances to hospitals and grocery stores.

Dozens of flights in Kiev’s biggest airport, Boryspil, are delayed or cancelled, with the city’s second aerial port, Zhuliany, halting operations altogether.

The harsh weather conditions forced the authorities to make Monday, March 25, a day off for all those employed in the government sector in Kiev and the Kiev Region, except medical facilities and entities involved in tackling the aftermath of the snowfall.

Owners of private businesses are also recommended to provide a one-day holiday for their staff.

But for those, who won’t get a day-off, it will be a huge problem to get to their workplaces as traffic in the city remains paralyzed on Sunday, with municipal transport unable to carry passengers.

There are also reports of a 70km traffic jam on the highway leading from Kiev to Zhitomir in the northwest of the country.

Meanwhile, bloggers report that some of the city’s residents managed to find joy in the tempest as some daredevils was seen snowboarding in the streets. 

A convoy of snow clearing vehicles work along a main road after a heavy snowfall in Kiev, March 23, 2013. (Reuters)

The weather conditions remain difficult in other parts of Ukraine as well, which led to electricity shortages in over 600 settlements in ten regions of the country. 

The highway services are fighting with snow 24/7 in the north of the country, while the southern regions are suffering from heavy rains.

The snow front is moving eastward and is expected to hit Moscow on Saturday evening or Sunday, lasting until almost the end of March. A gale warning is announced in Russia's capital and the Moscow Region.

The synoptic service say that the current March may become the coldest in Moscow in the last 33 years as they forecast temperatures of around minus 9 or 10 degrees Celsius, which is around nine degrees below average.

A woman removes snow from her car during a storm in the Ukraine capital Kiev on March 23, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Heavy snowfalls are already in full swing in Russia’s Tula and Lipetsk Regions, with snow-clearing vehicles taking to the streets, while the city of Kursk, the administrative center of Kursk Region, which borders Ukraine, was forced to declare the state of emergency, like Kiev.  

Subzero temperatures and snow mixed with rain are causing problems to residents of continental Europe and the British Isles as well, where the current March became the coldest in 50 years.

Russia’s national football team was to play a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast on Friday. The match was initially rescheduled to Saturday, but subsequently canceled, with stadium employees failing to remove the ice crust from the pitch.

An armored personnel carrier tows a vehicle on a road covered with snow in Kiev on March 23, 2013. (AFP Photo)

A driver stries to clear snow from a road during a heavy snow storm in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on March 23, 2013. (AFP Photo/Sergei Supinsky)

A man cleans his snow covered car after a heavy snow storm in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on March 23, 2013. (RIA Novosti / Alexei Furman)

Kiev administration declared a state of emergency in the city after heavy snowfalls paralysed transports in several regions and in Kiev where many international flights were cancelled. (RIA Novosti / Alexei Furman)

Tourists carry their luggage during a snow storm in the Ukraine capital Kiev on March 23, 2013. (AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky)