Eurovision win lifts spirits in Ukraine, raises eyebrows in Russia

Sun May 15, 2016 2:35pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Alexei Kalmykov and Vladimir Soldatkin

KIEV/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Ukrainian politicians hailed their country's surprise weekend victory in the European Song Contest as a continent-wide endorsement in their smoldering conflict with Russia, while Moscow said the competition had been hijacked by politics.

Ukrainian singer Jamala overtook the bookmakers' favorites, Russia and Australia, to win the normally light-hearted contest 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, her victory on Saturday evening 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 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 people worn down by two years of conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the east as well as political crises, corruption and poverty nationwide.

"It is a great win, and a very timely one. People need such things these days,” said Nikolay, a student from Kiev who only found out about it when a friend showed him a clip on her phone.

Nastya, a barista also from Kiev, had watched the contest through the night. “I am so happy," she said. "It is a small victory for Ukraine, it strengthens the spirit of our people.”   Continued...

Crimean Tatar singer Susana Jamaladinova, known as Jamala, who won the Eurovision Song Contest, leaves a plane during a welcoming ceremony upon her arrival at Boryspil International Airport outside Kiev, Ukraine, May 15, 2016. REUTERS/Roman Baluk