Kalush Orchestra will represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest tonight (14 May), as the Russian invasion of their home nation continues.
They are favourites to win the competition with their song “Stefania”, despite not being first choice to perform.
Alina Pash was originally chosen through a televised national selection show and was due to sing her song, “Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors”.
However, she 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.
She was replaced by hip hop act Kalush Orchestra, whose song blends modern rap and classical Ukrainian folk music.
Formed in 2019, the group consists of founder and rapper Oleh Psiuk, multi-instrumentalist Ihor Didenchuk, and dancer Vlad Kurochka.
The lyrics to “Stefania” are an ode to mothers and the trials they face raising families. The band’s live performance features synchronised dance moves, breakdance and flutes.
Kalush Orchestra are favourites to win the competition with odds of 4/5.
Russia was banned from the 2022 event following its invasion of Ukraine in February, before it had announced its act.
It won in 2008 with Dima Bilan singing Believe, and in turn hosted the 2009 contest in Moscow.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine played out around the event in 2017 when Julia Samoylova was chosen to represent Russia at the contest, which that year took place in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
She was blocked from the country because she had reportedly toured Crimea without entering it through the border with the Ukrainian mainland.
Russian television station Channel One then announced that it would not broadcast the contest or take part.
Follow live updates from tonight’s final here.