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UKRAINE

Sweden condemns Russia’s attack on Ukraine as ‘cowardly’

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist held a press conference on Thursday morning discussing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden condemns Russia's attack on Ukraine as 'cowardly'
Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist comment on Russia's attack on Ukraine at a press conference. Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT

‘A dark chapter in Europe’s history’

“Today marks the beginning of a new and dark chapter in Europe’s history,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference on Thursday morning.

Andersson further described the invasion of Ukraine as “unprovoked, unlawful and indefensible”, stating that it was “a threat to international peace and security, a flagrant breach of international law and the European security order”.

During the day, Andersson will be meeting with the European Council, where an agreement on a new round of sanctions against Russia is expected.

In response to questions at the press conference regarding Sweden potentially joining Nato, the prime minister responded that “in this kind of situation it is important that the security policy set by Sweden a long time ago remains the case. That we are predictable and clear with our security policy. This is not the situation for any kind of wobbliness.”

Foreign Minister Ann Linde described the invasion as “a serious breach of international law” and a “cowardly attack”, further stating that “we are facing the most important security political situation since the Second World War”.

Swedish embassy staff in Ukraine have left the capital Kyiv and have been working from the city of Lviv, near the Polish border, since Wednesday night. The embassy will now move to Poland, said the ministers.

Nuclear attack ‘unlikely’

When questioned about how she interpreted Putin’s speech last night, in which he threatened all “outsiders who are considering getting involved: if you do so, you will meet consequences greater than any you have met in history”, Andersson stated that “the entire speech is full of statements which are shocking and which, alongside threatening Ukraine, also threaten the rest of the world and Europe”.

Linde stated that she did not believe that nuclear attacks were likely: “It is in Russia’s interest to use threats of nuclear weapons as a strategic deterrence, but our assessment of the situation is that the use of nuclear weapons in this situation is unlikely.”

“We see that there is a clear risk for cyber attacks, but also for other hybrid threats against Sweden,” Andersson said. “Not just the armed forces, but also other authorities see that there is an increased risk at this time, and are taking precautions.”

A threat to Sweden

Defence minister Peter Hultqvist also condemned what he calls an “offensive Russian war of aggression”.

“What Russia wants to do is destroy the Ukrainian state, destroy Ukrainian democracy, collapse the state’s systems, create Russian dominance and supremacy,” he stated at the press conference.

“What is being created now is great human suffering and death,” he continued.

Hultqvist said Russia’s actions were a threat to European security and also a threat against Swedish interests and sovereignty.

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UKRAINE

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
 
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
 
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
 
 
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant
“Sentimentai”.

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.

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