Black snow falling in Siberia due to air loaded with coal dust yesterday prompted the regional governor to temporarily close a coal processing plant he accused of killing residents.
Snow laced with coal dust this month coated three towns in the industrial Kemerovo region, more than 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) east of Moscow.
Residents posted pictures on social media of cars and buildings under layers of black or greyish snow, with some saying it looked like Mordor, a terrifying blackened realm in Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" saga.
"It depresses you when everything around you is black. And you understand it's extremely harmful for your health," said Natalya Zubkova, 42, editor of an online newspaper in one of the affected cities, Kiselyovsk.
"Our children aren't going outside to play at all," she said, with the black snow likely to remain on the ground till the end of April.