Muscovites woke up today to a blanket of snow covering the Russian capital after a powerful cyclone brought a winter storm in the middle of spring.

"Last night a small but powerful cyclonic whirl hit the capital at a speed of 50 kilometres (31 miles) per hour bringing with it copious snowfall," weather forecaster Fobos said.

Temperatures in the afternoon were expected to go up to two degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit).

The snowstorm comes as a major test of patience for Muscovites who have endured an unusually cold and long winter lasting five months. Russians consider that spring begins on March 1.

"Pedestrians and drivers are urged to be careful. Gusts of wind can fell trees and tear down advertising hoardings," said NTV television channel.

Snowstorms were also forecast to continue on the far eastern Sakhalin Island, while cold weather was also expected in Siberia.

Unexpected snow over the past days also hit Scotland and Northern England, causing traffic chaos.