By Sergiy Karazy
(Reuters) - Gathered in a basement used as safe quarters north of Kyiv a small group of Ukrainian soldiers joyfully watched their country win the Eurovision Song Contest, saying it heralded their coming victory in the war to evict Russian forces from Ukraine.
The Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision with their entry "Stefania", surfing a wave of popular support from all around Europe to claim an emotional victory that was welcomed by the country's president.
"We had a victory: today in Eurovision, but soon we will have a victory in Ukraine-Russian war," said Tetyana, a military medic, standing in the basement decorated with children's paintings of Ukraine flag and "Glory to Ukraine" signs on them.
The tired-looking but happy servicemen had sat around a screen, some tapping rhythmically on their knees when Kalush performed, and when the winner was announced they clapped and cheered with delight.
"We will also win," said Vitaliy, a soldier. "We have shown that we can not only fight, but we can also sing very nice."
The Russian invasion, now in its third month, has claimed thousands of civilian lives, sent millions of Ukrainians fleeing and reduced cities to rubble.
Moscow calls its actions a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
The southern port city of Mariupol has suffered the heaviest fighting, and while it is now in Russian hands there hundreds of Ukrainian fighters still holding out at the Azovstal steel works despite weeks of heavy bombardment.
Stationed far to the north, closer to the border with Belarus, soldiers in the basement paid homage to the bravery of their comrades in the south.
"The next Eurovision we will host in liberated Mariupol," Vitaliy said, the servicemen said.
(Writing in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)