Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra have cemented their position as favourites to win Eurovision 2022 after being voted through to the grand final of the competition following a tense semi-final in Italy.
After an energetic performance of their song Stefania, the folk-rap band waved the Ukrainian flag as their qualification from the first semi-final in Turin was announced.
The Ukrainian act is the favourite to win currently, with bookmakers William Hill placing them at 8/13 odds, as Ukraine continues to resist Russian forces, who invaded in February.
It means Ukraine is among 10 countries which have been confirmed to compete at the final on Saturday - after acts from 17 countries took to the stage on Tuesday to fight for a place. Norway, Switzerland, Armenia, Iceland, Lithuania, Portugal, Greece, Moldova and Netherlands have also been voted through. However, this means for the acts from Albania, Latvia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark and Austria their Eurovision journey ends here.
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The UK is among the Big Five countries – also including Spain, Germany, France and Italy – who do not have to qualify from the semi-final stage and gain automatic access to the final. The 32-year-old TikTok star Sam Ryder will represent the UK on Saturday with his uplifting pop song Space Man.
Ukraine delivered an energetic performance while dressed in elaborate outfits, including long multicoloured fringed ensembles and traditional patterns, to secure a place in the final.
At the end of the performance, the group thanked everyone for supporting Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, which has now entered its 11th week. Kalush Orchestra were not the first choice to represent Ukraine but replaced Alina Pash who withdrew after facing scrutiny over a reported 2015 visit to Russia-occupied Crimea.
People who enter Crimea via Russia are considered by Ukraine to have illegally crossed the border, although there is no suggestion that Pash did this.
Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, who was commentating for the BBC Three coverage of the semi-final, explained: “Because of the current situation, the band weren’t able to meet to rehearse until about six weeks ago.” He added: “Frontman Oleg joked that he doesn’t think the lack of rehearsal time will affect their performance because they’re very attractive men.”
Eurovision producers previously announced that Russia will no longer participate in this year’s contest following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the war-torn country. The second semi-final of the competition will take place on Thursday where the remaining 18 countries will take to the stage in the hope of being voted through to the final.