Ukraine’s Eurovision team goes on tour to aid war effort

Ukraine’s contender for the Eurovision Song Contest 2022, the wildly popular, over-the-top annual European event that is a whirlwind of flamboyance and nationalism, will make his first international appearance on Thursday evening leading up to the main event in Kan.

The six members of the band Kalush Orchestra, a group that mixes rap and traditional Ukrainian music, were given special permission to leave the country despite martial law banning military-aged men from leaving, the country’s public broadcaster said.

“We want to show the world community Ukrainian music, our spirit and how unbreakable we are. We really need support at this difficult time,” the band said, according to broadcaster Suspline, which is organizing the competition to choose Ukraine’s representative.

Although the contest rules expressly prohibit political statements, gestures or texts, the Russian war in Ukraine is increasingly becoming a factor in the shindig that was watched by 183 million people worldwide last year. In February, a day after Russia sent its troops to Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union excluded Russia from this year’s competition, saying it would tarnish an event designed to promote European unity and cultural exchange.

Alina Pash, Ukraine’s first top pick for the competition, withdrew from pre-war competition in mid-February after a controversy over a 2015 trip to Russian-occupied Crimea.

Kalush Orchestra performed their Eurovision entry ‘Stefania’ for the first time since the war on a city square in Lviv in western Ukraine on Saturday. The band’s frontman has said in interviews that he volunteered for war relief and that one of his band members served in a territorial defense unit.

The group arrived in Israel this week to perform at a pre-Eurovision concert in Tel Aviv. They separately announced plans for a promotional tour ahead of the main Eurovision event to raise money for Ukraine.

Oddsmakers predict that Ukraine will win the final in Turin, Italy, which will be determined by votes from the public and a jury. Ukraine last won with singer Jamala’s 2016 song “1944,” which references Soviet abuses in Crimea under Stalin, just two years after Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin annexed Crimea.

In the 2009 contest, Georgia’s entry was a disco song titled “We Don’t Wanna Put In.” The organizers dismissed that song as overtly political because of its insubstantial reference to Mr Putin after Russia’s war with Georgia last year.

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