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NEW YORK — New Year's celebrations swept across the globe, ushering in 2023 with countdowns and fireworks — and marking an end to a year that brought war in Europe, a new chapter in the British monarchy and global worries over inflation.
The new year began in the tiny atoll nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific, then moved across Russia and New Zealand before heading deeper, time zone by time zone, through Asia and Europe and into the Americas.
At least for a day, thoughts focused on possibilities, even elusive ones like world peace, and mustering — finally — a resolve to keep the next array of resolutions.
In a sign of that hope, children met St. Nicholas in a crowded metro station in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Yet Russian attacks continued New Year's Eve. At midnight, the streets of the capital, Kyiv, were desolate. The only sign of a new year came from local residents shouting from their balconies, "Happy New Year!" and "Glory to Ukraine!" And only half an hour into 2023, air raid sirens rang across Ukraine's capital, followed by the sound of explosions.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported an explosion in Holosiivskyi district, and authorities reported that fragments of a missile that had been shot down had damaged a car in a central district.
In Paris, thousands celebrated on the Champs Elysees, while French President Emmanuel Macron pledged continuing support for Ukraine in a televised New Year's address. "During the coming year, we will be unfailingly at your side," Macron said. "We will help you until victory and we will be together to build a just and lasting peace. Count on France and count on Europe."
Big Ben chimed as more than 100,000 revelers gathered along the River Thames to watch a spectacular fireworks show around the London Eye. The display featured a drone light display of a crown and Queen Elizabeth II's portrait on a coin hovering in the sky, paying tribute to Britain's longest-serving monarch who died in September.
Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach welcomed a small crowd of a few thousand for a short fireworks display, and several Brazilian cities canceled celebrations this year due to concern about the coronavirus. The Brazilian capital's New Year's bash usually drew more than 2 million people to Copacabana before the pandemic.
Turkey's most populous city, Istanbul, brought in 2023 with street festivities and fireworks. At St. Antuan Catholic Church, dozens of Christians prayed for the new year and marked former Pope Benedict XVI's passing. The Vatican announced Benedict died Saturday at age 95.
New York City prepared to join the glow of the new year with a dazzling Saturday night spectacle in iconic Times Square, anchoring celebrations across the United States. The night culminates with a countdown as a glowing geodesic sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing almost six tons descends from its lofty perch atop One Times Square. Its surface is comprised of nearly 2,700 Waterford crystals that will be illuminated, officials said, by a palette of more than 16 million colors.
At the stroke of midnight, a ton of confetti was expected to rain down on soggy revelers, glittering amid the jumbo screens, neon and pulsing lights.
Last year, a scaled-back crowd of about 15,000 in-person mask-wearing spectators watched the ball descend while basking in the lights and hoopla. Because of pandemic rules, it was far fewer than the tens of thousands of revelers who usually descend on the world-famous square.
Before the ball dropped, there were heavy thoughts about the past year and the new one to come.
"2023 is about resurgence — resurgence of the world after COVID-19 and after the war in Ukraine. We want it to end," said Arjun Singh as he took in the scene at Times Square.
In Australia, more than 1 million people crowded along Sydney's waterfront for a multi-million dollar celebration based around the themes of diversity and inclusion. More than 7,000 fireworks were launched from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and another 2,000 from the nearby Opera House.
"We have had a couple of fairly difficult years; we're absolutely delighted this year to be able to welcome people back to the foreshores of Sydney Harbor for Sydney's world-famous New Year's Eve celebrations," Stephen Gilby, the city's producer of major events and festivals, told The Sydney Morning Herald.
In Auckland, New Zealand, large crowds gathered below the Sky Tower, where a 10-second countdown to midnight preceded fireworks. The celebrations in New Zealand's largest city returned after COVID-19 forced them to be canceled a year ago.
Chinese cautiously looked forward to 2023 after a recent easing of pandemic restrictions unleashed the virus but also signaled a return to normal life. Like many, salesperson Hong Xinyu stayed close to home over the past year in part because of curbs on travel.
"As the new year begins, we seem to see the light," he said at a countdown show that lit up the towering structures of a former steel mill in Beijing. "We are hopeful that there will be more freedom in the future."
Concerns about the Ukraine war and the economic shocks it has spawned across the globe were felt in Tokyo, where Shigeki Kawamura has seen better times but said he needed a free, hot meal this New Year's.
"I hope the war will be over in Ukraine so prices will stabilize," he said.
Associated Press journalists around the globe contributed to this report, including Liu Zheng in Beijing, Renata Brito and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv, Yuri Kagayema in Tokyo, Grant Peck in Bangkok, Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Thomas Adamson in Paris, Sylvia Hui in London and Robert Bumsted in New York.