Eurovision win lifts spirits in Ukraine, raises eyebrows in Russia

Sun May 15, 2016 10:16am EDT
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By Alexei Kalmykov and Vladimir Soldatkin

KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukrainians hailed their country's unexpected victory in the Eurovision song contest as a Europe-wide endorsement of Ukraine in its smouldering conflict with Russia, while Moscow said the contest had been hijacked by politics.

Ukrainian singer Jamala overtook the bookmakers' favourites, Russia and Australia, to lift the prize with the song "1944" about the war-time deportations of ethnic Tatars from Ukraine's Crimea peninsula by Soviet dictator Stalin.

The singer, herself of Crimean Tatar descent, had drawn parallels in interviews to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, which provoked Western condemnation of the Kremlin, and was opposed by many in the region's Tatar minority.

Under Eurovision rules, the victory means the 2017 contest will take place in the Ukrainian capital. One pro-Kremlin politician in Moscow suggested Russia might boycott the event next year.

After the results of Saturday's contest were announced in Stockholm, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko wrote on Twitter: "Personally congratulated Jamala with the victory. Today her voice spoke to the world on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people. The truth, as always, prevailed!"

Ukraine's victory, 12 years after it last won the Eurovision title, lifted the mood of Ukrainians tired of perpetual political crises and daily struggles against endemic corruption and poverty.

"The victory is ours! Thank you, Europe! This is fair! It's incredible!" said Ukrainian singer Ruslana, the winner of the 2004 edition of Eurovision, in a Facebook post.

"Jamala you did all you could and even more! We all are grateful to you for the victory - well deserved and so much needed for all of us!!!"   Continued...

Ukraine's Jamala reacts on winning the Eurovision Song Contest final at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, May 14, 2016. TT News Agency/Maja Suslin/via REUTERS