Ukraine wins Eurovision Song Contest over Russia
The Eurovision Song Contest has been won by Ukraine – beating out competition from neighbour Russia.
The country beat its neighbour Russia, with Ukrainian singer Jamala winning with politically-charged song 1944, referencing political events in the country, triumphing over Russia’s Sergey Lavarev.
The country’s shock victory comes despite Russia being the firm favourites to take the trophy.
Ukraine has a poor LGBT rights record, though has come in for less criticism than Russia. Russia came third overall, behind the famously European country of Australia.
Russia’s lawmakers passed a law banning ‘gay propaganda’ in 2013, and have repeatedly called for a boycott the ‘Eurovision Sodom show’.
Meanwhile, the contest organisers were forced to deploy ‘anti-booing’ tech to minimise repeated heckling of Russia – and warned against using rainbow flags to make “political” points.
A strong performance from Russian singer Lazarev failed to overcome hostility with his track ‘You are the Only One’.
The EBU will be thanking their lucky stars, as a Russian victory would mean the issue of the country’s rights record coming to a head, as the winning country gets the chance to host the next contest.
Mr Lazarev had sought to downplay fears about the safety of the contest’s gay fans, insisting the country will be courteous towards its guests.
He said: “Gay life exists in Russia, it’s not a secret. We’re a modern country, all cities have gay life, we have gay clubs – you can Google it and see how many gay clubs in Russia we have.
“I think if Eurovision will come to Russia, it will be very supportive for the gay community in Russia.
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“I think that you have to come and see – we hosted the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and it was amazing. A lot of different people came to Sochi: different nationalities and sexual orientations, and had a great time there.
“They had fun, and there was no problem there. We hosted Eurovision in 2009 and it was also so good, and everybody came and had fun.
“It will happen again if Russia wins. I’m praying for that with all Russians, because all Russians love Eurovision. We really want to host it.”
He added: “We do our best for our guests, for sure. You can feel safe in our country. If we do something, we do it the best way.”
Eurovision was last hosted in Russia in 2009, when it took place in Moscow – prior to the implementation of the country’s ‘gay propaganda’ law.
Russia previously temporarily relaxed the law for 2014’s Sochi Winter Olympics, but it is unclear whether the same courtesy would be extended to Eurovision.
In the first Eurovision semi-final on Tuesday, the British Broadcasting Corporation came under fire for playing a meatballs skit instead of a tribute to refugees.
An interpretive dance about the refugee crisis moved viewers across Europe – while UK audiences watched Mel Giedroyc try to fit two meatballs in her mouth at the same time.