Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy on Saturday evening, ahead of the United Kingdom and Spain, thanks to the vote of viewers who voted for the group representing the country invaded at the end of February by Russian troops.

The group Kalush Orchestra, whose song Stefania mixes rap and traditional music, collected 631 points, ahead of the Briton Sam Ryder and his title Space Man (466 points) and the Spanish singer Chanel with Slo Mo (459 points). France, represented by the Breton group Alven

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed his country’s Eurovision victory on Saturday, linking it to the Russian invasion: “Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe,” he said. he commented on his Facebook page.

Written before the war, the lyrics of the song Stefania resonate strongly with current events (“I will always find the way home even if all the roads are destroyed”). At six on stage, the members of the Kalush Orchestra group, all of fighting age, benefited from a temporary exemption issued by the government of kyiv, but they will have to return home to take up arms as soon as the competition is over. One of them stayed in the country.

“A member of the group joined the territorial defense of kyiv on the third day of the war,” singer Oleh Psiuk told AFP ahead of Saturday night’s final. “We are very worried about him, we hope to find him safe and sound when we return. »

The next edition in Ukraine?

The gala evening, followed each year by nearly 200 million viewers, was marked by several appeals in favor of Ukraine, in the face of the Russian invasion. At the end of the Ukrainian performance, much applauded by the 7,000 spectators gathered in Turin, the singer of the group Kalush Orchestra, Oleh Psiuk, launched to the crowd: “I ask to all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol, help Azovstal right now! (I ask all of you, please help Ukraine, Mariupol, help Azovstal [the factory that serves as the last pocket of resistance against Russian forces in Mariupol] now!). Words which, on paper, constitute a departure from the apoliticism advocated by Eurovision.

“We understand the deep feelings around Ukraine in this context and consider the comments of the Kalush Orchestra and other artists expressing their support for the Ukrainian people to be humanitarian in nature more than political,” the European Union said. Radio-Television (EBU), organizer of the event. The EBU had excluded Russia from the competition the day after Russian troops entered Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine garnered the maximum score – 12 points – of several ex-republics or satellite countries of the Soviet Union: Poland, the country in Europe having received the largest number of Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war, Moldova , Latvia, Romania and Lithuania.

The next edition of the competition will therefore be held, at least in theory, in Ukraine, which will be in the words of Oleh Psiuk, “a new, integrated, developed and flourishing Ukraine”.

It is Ukraine’s second victory in this competition after that of 2016 – two years after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea by Russia – with Jamala and the title 1944, a song recounting the deportation of the Tatars by Stalin .