Next year in Mariupol! Zelensky delights in Ukraine's win at Eurovision competition

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed delight in the victory of Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra at the Eurovision Singing Contest Saturday. The group won with a record number of votes from across Europe. The competition this year was held in Turin, Italy. The winner of each year’s competition becomes the host for the following. Zelensky assured all that Ukraine will welcome hosting the event.

Zelensky said afterwards: “Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!”

The winner of each year’s Contest traditionally becomes the event host the following year, and Zelensky promised that Ukraine would be no exception, despite its current plight following invasion by Russia.

“We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt! I am sure our victorious chord in the battle with the enemy is not far off.”

While we can understand Zelensky’s exuberance in such a win for his country, his pledge to hold the European singing competition in Mariupol is not realistic for next year. Earlier this month Zelensky stated that Mariupol is “completely destroyed”. Who knows how long it will take to rebuild the city? Putin’s war in Ukraine continues and it’s unclear how long it will drag on. Nonetheless, Zelensky rightly points out that the courage of the Ukrainian people impresses the world – especially the courage and strong leadership of Zelensky.

Participants in the competition are banned from making political statements from the stage. Song lyrics are required to be non-political, too. This year, though, some deference to Putin’s war in Ukraine was given. Scoring of the competition is complicated but Ukraine was favored to win this year.

Eurovision uses a complicated scoring system involving various tallies among industry experts and fan votes from the participating countries. As such, it takes awhile to determine a winner. Sentiment and politics play a big role in the judging, as many countries vote as a block, and sympathy for aggrieved nations sometimes wins out over style and substance. Thus, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra was a heavy favorite heading into the grand final.

There was an unofficial theme of peace and support for Ukraine during the event.

The show began with the audience singing “Give Peace a Chance,” the first of many nods to the ongoing combat situation. Later, Laura Pausini, the Italian cohost, used her opening number for a “Peace on Earth” message. Later, Iceland’s entry had a Ukranian flag on their hands and guitars and shouted “Peace for Ukraine” at the end of their performance. And many delegation held a Ukrainian flag along with their own in the arena’s Green Room section.

It’s a big win for the group. Even the competition’s officials didn’t want to step on their victory. Though the band’s front man yelled a plea for help for the Ukrainian fighters trapped in the steel plant in Mariupol, the band will not be punished for his political outburst.

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.”

Mad Vlad and his murdering minions must have heard Psuik’s words in victory and his support of the Ukrainian fighters still in the steel plant. A response was shown on a pro–Kremlin news channel.

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.”

Even non-military victories are important in times of war for Ukraine. Congratulations to Kalush Orchestra. Let’s hope Ukraine can host the contest in the near future.