Kiev residents ski down streets after record snowfall

The Ukrainian capital struggled to clear its streets on Monday after a record-breaking snowfall, as some took advantage of an official day off to ski down the streets while car drivers fumed in vast traffic jams.

The Ukrainian authorities told its public sector workers in Kiev to stay home on Monday after what forecasters described as the biggest snowfall in the capital for over a century.

After a snowstorm that began on Friday and only died down on Sunday, many of the roads in the city centre were still not cleaned on Monday morning, slowing traffic to a crawl, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov himself fell victim to the snowstorm after his motorcade got stuck on a snow-covered bridge across the Dnieper River that flows through Kiev, his press service said.

"The situation is very difficult," Azarov said, quoted in a statement. His motorcade in the end had to turn round and take a different route.

The snowfall set a record for Kiev since weather records began in 1881, the head of the national weather service, Mykola Kulbida, said Monday.

Meteorologists said that 41 millimetres of precipitation fell overnight Friday to Saturday, a figure reflecting the amount of water in the snow.

The authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital and made Monday a day off, after hundreds or even thousands of inhabitants spent Friday night in unprecedented traffic jams.

On Monday numerous cars remained buried under the snow and traffic jams persisted as the city authorities said that only some of the public transport had gone back into service.

"The efforts to restore traffic flow in Kiev are continuing," an official at the Emergency Situations ministry, Grigory Marchenko, told journalists on Monday.

Some residents took advantages of the weather to enjoy winter sports right in the city centre.

Some did cross-country skiing along the snow-covered streets, while the historic Andriyivskyy Descent, a steep, cobbled street popular with tourists, attracted lovers of Alpine skiing and snowboarding, according to a video posted on YouTube (

The bad weather also prompted shortages of bread and dairy products, which were impossible to find in many stores during the weekend, media reported.

The traffic jams even affected funerals because the city's main cemetery closed down due to the traffic problems, Oleksander Mazurchak, a senior city official, told local website Dzerkalo Tyzhnia.

"The problems will be solved by Tuesday," he said.