Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy on Saturday with its contribution “Stefania”, which rides on a wave of public support to take an emotional victory that was welcomed by the country’s president.
The winning song was sung in Ukrainian and combined rap with traditional folk music and was a tribute to the band’s frontman Oleh Psiuk’s mother.
Bookmakers had made the Kalush Orchestra the clear favorite for the annual competition, which normally draws a television audience of nearly 200 million, based in part on popular sympathy for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quick to congratulate.
“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year, Ukraine will host the Eurovision song contest,” he said in an online statement. The winners can traditionally host the event the following year.
“I thank the Kalush Orchestra for this victory and everyone who gave us your votes! I am sure the sound of victory in the battle with the enemy is not far away,” he added.
Ukraine was in fourth place based on jury votes but took victory with an overwhelming lead in the spectator vote. Britain’s Sam Ryder finished second, while Chanel from Spain finished third.
This is the third time that Ukraine has won the annual competition.
The band’s frontman appealed to the city of Mariupol and its Azovstal facility at the end of their performance.
“Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now,” Psiuk shouted from the stage.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the competition, said no action would be taken against the band for using the stage to make a statement.
“We understand the deep feelings surrounding Ukraine at this time and believe in the comments of the Kalush Orchestra and other artists who express support for the fact that the Ukrainian people are humanitarian rather than political in nature,” the EBU said in a statement.