2014 year in pictures: The 100 most powerful news images from an eventful 12 months

From the beautiful to the dramatic, the year has been nothing if not vivid

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Protesters lit up by the flames of burning barricades, explosions rocking the foundations of an ancient city – and an isolated figure representing the common humanity of very disparate religions.

For many, 2014 has been a year marked by news of conflict, tragedy and sudden natural disasters. But it has also been one of great colour, powerful displays of defiance in adversity and stunning images of hope.

In January, we began the year marvelling at the “polar vortex” that descended over North America with devastating effect.

The fireworks of the Sochi Winter Olympics lit up February – and found their match over the border in Ukraine with the chaotic protests that sparked a civil war.

March saw the still-mysterious disappearance of MH370, the tragedy of which was captured in an emotive wall of “messages of hope”.

In April, news photographers joined rescuers in their desperate bid to save passengers from the Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea, while Pope Francis made an historic trip in May to pray at Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

Protesters burn as they stand behind burning barricades during clashes with police in Kiev

A woman leaves a messages of support and hope for the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 in central Kuala Lumpur

Pope Francis prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City

The 2014 World Cup was widely viewed as a successful operation in June – but images from the favelas were a constant reminder of the distance between Brazil’s poorest and the football stars on their TV screens.

White doves provided a symbolic vision of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War in July – but in August we returned to modern conflicts as the Yazidi minority fled the rampaging advance of Isis in Syria.

Members of the Ukrainian State Emergency Service search for bodies in a field near the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabove), in Donetsk region

An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobani during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Isis group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) position in the city center of Kobani, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border

A woman crawls towards the body of her sister as Ebola burial team members take her sister Mekie Nagbe (28) for cremation in Monrovia, Liberia

In September, the “Umbrella Revolution” began in Hong Kong as student demonstrators rallied against the China-controlled Legislative Council of their city.

Images from West Africa continued to bring focus to the unprecedented Ebola outbreak in October, while in November the US cried that “black lives matter” in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting grand jury decision.

December has seen its own share of tragedy – and the year will close for many with the focus on yet another international passenger jet lost. It has certainly been an eventful year.