Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy on Saturday with their song “Stefania”, riding a wave of public support to claim an emotional victory hailed by the country’s president.
Sung in Ukrainian, the winning song fused rap with traditional folk music and was a tribute to band leader Oleh Psiuk’s mother.
Bookmakers had made Kalush Orchestra the heavy favorite in the annual contest, which normally attracts nearly 200 million viewers, in part due to popular sympathy for Ukraine following the Russian invasion in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quick to offer his congratulations.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest,” he said in an online post. The winners traditionally get to host the event the following year.
“I thank the Kalush Orchestra for this victory and everyone who gave us their votes! I’m sure the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far away,” he added.
Ukraine was in fourth place based on the jury vote, but took the win by a considerable lead in the viewers’ vote. Briton Sam Ryder finished second, while Spaniard Chanel finished third.
This is the third time that Ukraine has won the annual contest.
The leader of the group made a plea for the city of Mariupol and its factory in Azovstal at the end of their appearance.
“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal now,” Psiuk shouted from the front of the stage.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the contest, said no action would be taken against the band for using the stage to make a statement.
“We understand the deep feelings around Ukraine at this time and believe that the comments by the Kalush Orchestra and other artists expressing their support for the Ukrainian people are humanitarian rather than political in nature,” the EBU said in a statement. a statement.