MOSCOW - Russia may remain locked in a deep freeze for the rest of the month, forecasters said, as another seven people died overnight in Moscow and concerns over energy supplies in Russia and Europe grew as the bone-chilling cold forced cutbacks.

"Only two such deep freezes have occurred in the past 100 years" in the western, "European" portion of Russia, the daily Gazeta said. "Once in 1940 and once in 1979, when the temperature fell to minus 40 degrees C" (minus 40 F).

Daytime temperatures in Moscow hovered around minus 30 C Thursday while they were expected to sink to around minus 37 C in the capital and closer to minus 40 C in the surrounding countryside overnight Thursday to Friday.

Weather forecasters predicted a relative warming trend over the weekend -- when temperatures could "warm" to an average of minus 20 C -- but said the Arctic cold was likely to set in again next week and last through January.

Another cold front was expected to settle over western Russia and "the deep freeze may continue in the capital until the end of January," Gazeta said, quoting the Fobos weather forecasting center.

In Moscow, city medical authorities said that seven people died as a result of exposure to the cold while another 25 people were hospitalized with hypothermia, Interfax news agency reported. A total of 93 people sought medical attention.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from cold from other cities and towns in Russia also experiencing unusually frigid weather.

Authorities however said they would continue a "strict" energy conservation regime including power cuts to non-essential factories and Moscow municipal authorities recommended that employers give staff days off on Thursday and Friday to save energy.

Meanwhile concern continued in Russia and Europe after the state-run energy giant Gazprom confirmed it had scaled back gas shipments to clients in Europe as a result of the extraordinary demand.

Gazprom said it was fulfilling all contractual obligations but said it was not immediately able to meet demand over and above those levels due to surging consumption in Russia itself.

Italy was particularly affected by the cutback in Russian gas supply and Italian Industry Minister Claudio Scajola called an emergency meeting with energy companies to discuss the situation.

The ITAR-TASS news agency meanwhile reported that production at the Noyabrskneftegaz oil field in Russia's far north region of Yamalo-Nenetskiy region had been halted as a result of the cold.

Temperatures there were at an all-time record low of minus 61 C (minus 78 F).