Dec 31 (Reuters) – With fireworks in London, Paris and Berlin, hopes for an end to the war in Ukraine and a return to post-COVID normality, Europe and Asia say goodbye to 2022.
It was a year marked by the conflict in Ukraine, economic tensions and the effects of global warming. But it was also a year that saw a dramatic soccer World Cup, rapid technological change, and efforts to deal with climate challenges.
For Ukraine, there seemed to be no end in sight to the fighting that began when Russia invaded in February. On Saturday, Russia fired a barrage of cruise missiles that Ukraine’s ombudsman described as “New Year’s Eve terror.”
Evening curfews were in place across the country, making it impossible to celebrate the start of 2023 in many public spaces. Several regional governors posted messages on social media warning residents not to break the restrictions.
In Kyiv, however, people gathered near the city’s central Christmas tree as midnight approached.
“We’re not going to give up. They couldn’t ruin our celebrations,” said Yaryna, 36, who was celebrating with her husband, tinsel and fairy lights draped around her.
In a video message to mark the New Year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2022, said: “I want to wish all of us one thing: victory.”
Shortly after midnight, air raid sirens sounded again across the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dedicated his New Year’s speech to rallying the Russian people behind his troops.
The festivities in Moscow were muted, without the usual fireworks in Red Square.
“One should not pretend that nothing is happening, our people are dying (in Ukraine),” said Yelena Popova, 68. “There is a party going on, but there must be limits.” Many Muscovites said they hoped for peace in 2023.
The London Eye was dyed blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine as fireworks were seen at midnight in the British capital.
The celebration, which the mayor of London called the largest in Europe, also referenced Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September, the red and white of the England soccer team and the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ Pride event, who turned 50 years old. in 2022.
Elsewhere in the region, fireworks erupted over the Parthenon in Athens, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where crowds gathered on the Champs-Elysees avenue to see the first fireworks of French capital New Year from 2019.
Like many places, the Czech capital Prague was feeling the economic squeeze and therefore did not put on a fireworks display.
“Organizing celebrations did not seem appropriate,” said city council spokesman Vit Hofman.
Heavy rain and strong winds caused the cancellation of fireworks shows in major cities in the Netherlands.
But several European cities were enjoying record heat for the time of year. In Prague, it was the hottest New Year’s Eve in its 247-year record, with temperatures reaching 17.7 degrees Celsius (63.9 Fahrenheit).
It was also the hottest New Year’s Eve on record in France, official meteorologist Meteo France said.
‘SYDNEY IS BACK’
Earlier, Australia kicked off the celebrations with its first unrestricted New Year’s Eve after two years of COVID disruptions.
Sydney welcomed in the New Year with a typically dazzling fireworks display, featuring a rainbow cascade over the Harbor Bridge for the first time.
“This New Year’s Eve we say Sydney is back as we kick off the festivities around the world and bring in the New Year with a bang,” said Clover Moore, the city’s mayor.
Pandemic-era restrictions on celebrations were lifted this year after Australia, like many countries around the world, reopened its borders and lifted social distancing restrictions.
In China, strict COVID restrictions were lifted only in December when the government reversed its “zero-COVID” policy, a change that has led to a surge in infections and meant some people were in no mood to celebrate.
“This virus should go and die, I can’t believe that this year I can’t even find a healthy friend who can date me,” wrote a social media user based in the eastern province of Shandong.
But in the city of Wuhan, where the pandemic began three years ago, thousands of people gathered to have fun despite a heavy security presence, launching balloons into the sky as the clocks struck midnight.
Barricades were erected and hundreds of police officers stood guard. Loudspeakers played a looping message advising people not to gather. But the great crowd of revelers took no notice.
In Shanghai, many thronged the historic riverside promenade, the Bund.
“We all traveled from Chengdu to celebrate in Shanghai,” said Da Dai, a 28-year-old digital media executive who was visiting with two friends. “We’ve already had COVID, so now I feel like it’s safe to enjoy it.”
In Hong Kong, days after limits on group gatherings were lifted, tens of thousands of people gathered near Victoria Harbor for a countdown to midnight, the city’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in several years. The event was canceled in 2019 due to often violent social unrest, then scaled back in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
Reuters Annual Summary 2022
Information from Reuters offices around the world; Written by Neil Fullick, Frances Kerry, and Rosalba O’Brien; Edited by Hugh Lawson, David Holmes, Daniel Wallis and Kim Coghill
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