Leader: Eurovision’s light in Ukraine’s darkness

In troubled times, the light relief provided by the annual extravaganza of camp and kitsch that is the Eurovision Song Contest is immeasurable.

This year the spectre of war in Europe hung over the contest, with Russia banned following its invasion of Ukraine in February.

International support for Ukraine was evident throughout Saturday night’s competition in Turin, as artists expressed their solidarity.

The show even opened with a rendition of John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance, performed by 1,000 musicians on the streets of Turin.

Members of the band "Kalush Orchestra" pose onstage with the winner's trophy and Ukraine's flags after winning on behalf of Ukraine the Eurovision Song contest in Turin. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

As predicted, Ukraine’s rap-folk band Kalush Orchestra were runaway winners after a tidal wave of public votes saw the wartorn country leapfrog the United Kingdom.

The Ukrainians ended their performance with the words: “Please help Ukraine, help Mariupol, help Azovstal right now.”

The plea was a reference to the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where trapped fighters under attack from Russian phosphorus bombs have said they fear their battle is coming to an end.

Convention dictates that next year’s Eurovision Song Contest will take place in the country that won this year, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to host the competition in Mariupol.

Residents of that embattled city may well fear this will never happen, and yet it seems increasingly there are grounds for hope.

Russian troops are retreating from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, as Moscow’s forces continue to engage in a grinding battle for the country’s eastern industrial heartland.

At a meeting of diplomats in Berlin yesterday, Nato’s deputy secretary-general said the military advance of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops appears to be faltering.

Mircea Geoana said: “The brutal invasion (by) Russia is losing momentum. We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war.”

As other neighbours of Russia such as Finland prepare to apply for Nato membership in the face of Putin’s belligerence, the international community must continue to drive his forces back in Ukraine and help Mr Zelensky deliver on his promise to bring Eurovision to Mariupol next year.

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