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PARIS: From the Covid pandemic to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and extreme weather, we look back on the key events of 2021.

Covid not going away

More than five million people die from the virus despite nearly eight billion vaccine shots being given, with poor countries still struggling to get their hands on doses.

The world sees new quarantines and lockdowns, which are particularly drawn out in Australia's main cities. But borders slowly reopen and the Olympics take place in Tokyo a year late to empty stadiums.

Late in the year, Europe sees a resurgence of the pandemic, with some countries reimposing restrictions.

But just as successful clinical trials of anti-Covid drugs raise hopes of a return to normality, a new highly infectious Omicron strain emerges.

US: Chaos at the Capitol

Hundreds of supporters of Donald Trump storm the Capitol, the seat of American democracy, on January 6 attempting to block the confirmation of Joe Biden's presidential election victory over the property tycoon two months earlier.

The assault stuns the world.

Biden is sworn in as the 46th US president two weeks later, with Trump breaking 152 years of tradition by refusing to attend the inauguration.

On February 13, Trump is acquitted on charges of inciting the Capitol insurrection after a historic second impeachment trial, after Senate Republicans close ranks.

Navalny jailed

On January 17, the Kremlin's most prominent critic Alexei Navalny is arrested on returning to Moscow, five months after being treated in Germany after a poisoning attack he blames on Russia President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow denies any involvement.

In February, Navalny is sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on embezzlement charges he says are politically motivated.

In October, the European Parliament awards him the 2021 Sakharov Prize for human rights.

A year of coups

On February 1, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is arrested in a coup that ends the country's decade-long experiment with democracy.

More than 1,200 people have since been killed and thousands of arrested during the violent suppression of mass protests against the military junta.

Suu Kyi faces decades in prison if convicted in trials many observers have denounced as political.

On May 24, Mali strongman Colonel Assimi Goita carries out the West African country's second coup in 10 months.

In Tunisia in July, President Kais Saied takes wide-ranging powers, claiming there are "imminent dangers" in the country once hailed as the ray of hope from the Arab Spring.

Guinea's president Alpha Conde is overthrown in a military coup on September 5.

And in Sudan, the military detains civilian members the transition government following the 2019 overthrow of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, in an October 25 coup.

Israel war

On May 3, violence explodes between Israel and the Palestinians after clashes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, sparked by a years-long bid by Jewish settlers to take over Arab homes.

Hundreds are hurt as violence spreads to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, leading to an 11-day war.

On June 13, Israel gets a new government led by hardline Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year reign.

Taliban return to power

The Taliban enter Kabul without meeting resistance on August 15, following a lightning offensive after the withdrawal of US and NATO troops.

They retake power 20 years after being driven out by a US-led international coalition.

Panicked people descend on Kabul airport to try to flee as a chaotic evacuation of diplomats, foreigners and Afghans unfolds. Some die in a crush while scores after killed in a suicide bombing.

The last remaining troops pulled out on August 30, marking the dramatic end of the United States' longest war.

Europe shaken

Britain, which left the European Union's single market on January 1, is beset by empty shelves and a fuel crisis because of labour shortages, especially of lorry drivers.

Brexit also creates tensions in Northern Ireland, as well as between the United Kingdom and its neighbours over fisheries and migrants.

A war of words breaks out with France after 27 migrants die when their boat sinks in the Channel in November.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to bow out after 16 years in power and surprises the world by asking for a punk song to be played at an official goodbye.

Social Democrat leader Olaf Scholz, allied to the Greens and the Liberals, is set to step into her shoes before Christmas.

An explosive EU row breaks out after an October 7 ruling by Poland's Constitutional Court saying European law could only apply in specific areas, setting the country at odds with the rest of the bloc.

Extreme climate events

Prolonged global warming beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Farenheit) agreed under the Paris accord could produce "centuries long and irreversible consequences" UN experts warn in a report obtained by AFP in June.

Meanwhile, extreme climate events multiply across the world, from catastrophic floods in Germany and Belgium to devastating and long-running wildfires in the US, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Algeria.

A so-called "heat dome" in June in western Canada pushes temperatures to almost 50 degrees Celsius.

In November nearly 200 countries at the COP26 summit in Glasgow pledge to speed up the fight against rising temperatures.

But commitments fall short of what scientists say is needed to contain dangerous rises.

Poland-Belarus migrant crisis

In November thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, camp out in freezing temperatures on Belarus's border with Poland seeking to cross into the European Union.

The West accuses Minsk of engineering the influx in response to sanctions imposed after the brutal repression in 2020 of a protest movement against "Europe's last dictator", Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus and Russia deny stoking the crisis, and lash the EU for not taking the people in.


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