Sub-freezing temperatures have killed scores of people throughout eastern and central Europe in the past week, as natural gas shortages compounded the bitter chill in several countries.

Ukraine's health ministry Thursday said the Arctic cold has claimed at least 181 lives and led to more than 2000 hospitalizations since Saturday.

Weather-related deaths also have been reported in Russia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland and the Baltic countries among others.  The situation remains critical in Georgia, where gas shortages and power outages compounded the bitter cold.

In a statement Thursday, Russian oil giant Gazprom accused Ukraine of diverting gas meant for the rest of Europe. 

When faced with similar allegations earlier this week, Ukraine said it was meeting all transit requirements.

In hopeful news, the icy temperatures that have gripped much of Eastern Europe for the past week have begun to ease up Thursday.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.