Music group Kalush Orchestra have won the Eurovision Song Contest 2022, after appealing from the stage to help rescue Ukrainian fighters locked up in Mariupol, and receiving overwhelming support from European audiences by phone and online voting .
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year, Ukraine will host Eurovision! said President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday evening, after the announcement of the final results.
“We will do our best to welcome Eurovision participants and guests to Ukrainian Mariupol one day,” the president added, referring to the Sea port city of Azov currently controlled by Russian forces.
Eurovision is supposed to be apolitical and contestants could be disqualified or fined for breaking this rule. Russia was excluded from the competition for its military attack on Ukraine, as organizers claimed they sought to exclude politics and war from the competition in favor of peace and unity.
Ukrainian band leader Oleh Psiuk insists the song “Stefania” was written as a tribute to his mother with no political message in mind, but it has since become a symbolic anthem of the homeland for Ukrainians. On Saturday, Psiuk took the stage with a call to a live audience of some 7,500 people in the Italian city of Turin, with millions more watching the show from home.
“I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal, right now”, he said, referring to the beleaguered steelworks.
Currently, only fighters from the neo-Nazi Azov regiment and some Ukrainian army units remain inside the facility. Last week, Russia and Ukraine declared the evacuation of civilians from the sprawling industrial complex complete.
Ukraine were clear favorites heading into the final, with bookmakers giving them a 60 per cent chance of winning, amid overall Western support for kyiv in their fight against Moscow. After the jury vote, Kalush Orchestra finished fourth with 192 points, but a whopping 439 points from the European public propelled them to the top, despite claims that Russian pirates could disrupt the vote.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the republics from the Donbass of Donetsk and Lugansk. The protocols negotiated by Germany and France were designed to give breakaway regions a special status within the Ukrainian state. Mariupol is claimed by the separatist republic of Donetsk as an integral part of its territory.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.
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