A man walks past a fence covered with hoarfrost in central Moscow, on December 19, 2012. Image Credit: AFP

Moscow: Russia remained locked in a cold snap on Friday that has already claimed dozen of lives, with forecasters warning it would last to Christmas Eve, while a frigid eastern Europe also counted the toll.

In Russia, where thermometers have been stuck below minus 20 degrees Celsius in Moscow and below minus 50 degrees in some parts of Siberia for a week, the cold has killed two people in the past 24 hours, the Ria-Novosti agency reported, citing medical sources.

The total number of cold deaths in Russia has reached 56 since December 14. A total of 371 people have ended up in hospital.

Russian weather forecasters said temperature in the Khabarovsk region in eastern Russia had dropped to minus 43 Celsius, while Krasnoyarsk in Siberia reported minus 47.

They added that this "abnormal" frost would last till Monday because of a persistent anticyclone.

In Russia's European region, meanwhile, the mercury is expected to fall to minus 31 degrees Celsius Christmas Eve before rising rapidly afterwards.

In eastern Europe, police in Poland said Friday that 49 people had died of exposure this month, with most of the victims homeless, as temperatures plunged to minus 10 degrees Celsius.

In the Baltic states, at least six people have died of exposure in Lithuania in the past weeks, police and emergency services said.

In Latvia, temperatures reached minus 14 Celsius on Friday morning. In the capital Riga, authorities decided to drop public transport fares to encourage drivers to leave their cars at home and prevent crashes and jams.

On Christmas Eve temperatures in Latvia are expected to drop to minus 28 Celsius, a record low.

In other European countries hit hard by the frost and snow in the past few days, temperatures have started to return to normal. Overnight temperatures in Ukraine reached an average minus 15 degrees Celsius, which is normal at this time of the year.

Ukrainian authorities said 93 villages - mainly on the Crimean peninsula in the south of the country - were still hit by a power outage. Several dozen people have died this month in Ukraine, which has been battling heavy snowfall for weeks.

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, temperatures hovered around zero on Friday. Czech police said several people had died of exposure in recent weeks, but no overall statistics were available for the country.