The Eurovision Song Contest’s participants are officially banned from making any political statements from the stage, either verbally or in their lyrics, but that didn’t stop Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra.
The band’s frontman Oleh Psiuk finished its performance of Stefania with an impassioned plea for the world to help free Ukrainian fighters trapped beneath the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
As the band’s members took their bows, Psiuk shouted, “Help Azovstal, right now.”
The event’s organisers – the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – announced that, despite its rules banning politics, no action would be taken against Kalush Orchestra, who went on to win the competition with an astounding 439 audience votes from across Europe.
The EBU said: “We understand the deep feelings around Ukraine at this moment and believe the comments of the Kalush Orchestra and other artists expressing support for the Ukrainian people to be humanitarian rather than political in nature.”
Following his band’s victory, Psiuk thanked the Ukrainian diaspora and “and everyone around the world who voted for Ukraine, saying, ”The victory is very important to Ukraine. Especially this year.”
Among the plant’s final defenders are the Azov battalion, who sent thanks to the band from their subterranean tunnels beneath the plant, posting on social media, “Thank you to Kalush Orchestra for your support! Glory to Ukraine!”
Evidence that this message of defiant support has reached Russian ears was seen this morning when pictures emerged on pro-Kremlin channel FighterBomber, showing bombs emblazoned with messages mocking the band’s call. Insignia included words which read, “Just as you asked for, Kalusha! For Azovstal” and “#Eurovision2022. I heard the call to f*** up Azov. Help Mariupol. Help Mariupol right now.”
Ukrainian President Zelensky has delighted in his country’s victory in this year’s Contest and avowed that next year’s event will take place in the country’s southern port city of Mariupol, currently besieged.