Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest while UK sees best result in decades

Kalush Orchestra representing Ukraine perform during the Grand Final show of the 66th Eurovision Song Contest.

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra has won the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time after receiving the bulk of votes in the public vote.

The UK’s Sam Ryder was in the lead following the announcement of the jury vote, but Ukraine quickly took over when the public had their say.

The war-torn country stormed into the lead at the last minute, with Kalush Orchestra’s “Stefania” beating out stiff competition from the UK, Sweden, Spain and other countries.

There were emotional scenes in the stadium in Turin when Ukraine was announced as winner of the contest, with other acts waving Ukrainian flags to show their support for the war-torn country.

Ukraine finished with 631 points, most of which came from the public vote. The folk-rap group’s song was written about lead singer Oleg Psyuk’s mother, but it took on a new significance after Russia invaded the country in February.

The UK’s Sam Ryder finished with 466 points, while Spain’s Chanel ended up third with 459 points.

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra was congratulated by Volodymyr Zeleksnky for winning Eurovision

Speaking to TIME magazine ahead of the contest, Kalush Orchestra frontman Oleh Psiuk said: “After the war, a lot of people seem to be finding new meanings there.”

He continued: “The enemy is trying to destroy our culture. But we are here to prove that we still exist, that we deserve to be seen. We deserve to be known. We’re asking for help to protect our culture.”

Ukraine’s entry received a rapturous response earlier in the evening when they took to the stage – the Eurovision audience in Turin, Italy, gave them a standing ovation, while many could be seen waving Ukrainian flags.

Speaking directly after they had performed, Psiuk said: “Please help Ukraine, Mariupol. Help Azovstal right now.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky threw his weight behind the group ahead of the Eurovision grand final in a recorded video message, saying: “Europe, vote for Kalush Orchestra. Let’s support our fellow countrymen! Let’s support Ukraine!”

The country had been the bookies’ favourite to win ahead of the contest. Eurovision pundits had expected that Ukraine would emerge victorious, with much of Europe – and the world – throwing their weight behind the country following Russia’s barbaric invasion and war, which kicked off in February.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Sam Ryder said ahead of the contest that he wasn’t too bothered about what place he finished in.

“This is something that celebrates inclusivity, expression, love, peace, joy, togetherness. And so to think about the scoreboard, for me, takes a bit of the shine and the magic out of the room entirely.”

Immediately after Kalush Orchestra were named winners, the Ukrainian government said Europe had “melted their hearts” in a Twitter post.

“We send all your love and support to our brave freedom defenders at Azovstal and along the frontline,” the official Ukraine Twitter account tweeted.

“Congrats, Kalush Orchestra!”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky also congratulated the band, writing on social media: “Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe.

“We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt.”

Eurovision fans rushed to Twitter to heap praise on Ukraine after Kalush Orchestra were named winners at the contest.