As Moscow freezes in a vicious cold snap, the plight of Russia’s homeless is a growing concern and deaths are commonplace.
Thermometers have been stuck at well below freezing for a number of weeks and the resilience of those without shelter is being sorely tested.
Soup kitchens offer a lifeline, but in extreme temperatures a warm place to sleep is the only answer.
In Ukraine the government has set up some 3,000 shelters nationwide, but only 10 in the capital Kiev a city of some 4 million people.
It is not just the homeless who face difficulties:
“Old people who are unable to fetch wood for the stove are simply starving and dying from the cold like in ancient times,” said one resident.
In Kiev the lucky ones get to spend the night in a tent:
“When I arrived, they offered me a seat, gave me tea and something to eat,” said one homeless man.
In the Polish city of Krakow the poor, homeless and infirm descended on the main square where they were given traditional Christmas dishes. On the same day last year 52,000 helpings were served.
There is some cause for optimism, weather forecasters predict the cold snap in the east to end on December 24.