Ukraine’s contender for the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, the wildly popular, over-the-top annual European event that is a swirl of flamboyance and nationalism, is set to give its first international performance Thursday evening in the lead-up to the main event in May.
The six members of the band Kalush Orchestra, a group that mixes rap and traditional Ukrainian music, were given special permission to leave the country despite a martial law that bars men of military age from departing, according to the country’s public broadcaster.
“We want to show the world community Ukrainian music, our spirit and how unbreakable we are. We really need support in this difficult time,” the band said, according to the broadcaster Suspline, which runs the contest to pick Ukraine’s representative.
Even though contest rules expressly bar political speech, gestures or lyrics, Russia’s war in Ukraine is very much becoming a factor in the shindig that last year was viewed by 183 million people worldwide. In February, a day after Russia sent its troops into Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union barred Russia from this year’s competition, saying it would sully an event designed to promote European unity and cultural exchange.
Ukraine’s initial top pick for the contest, Alina Pash, withdrew from the competition before the war in mid-February, after a controversy over a 2015 trip she made to Russian-occupied Crimea.
Kalush Orchestra performed their Eurovision entry, “Stefania,” Saturday at a town square in Lviv in western Ukraine for the first time since the war. The band’s frontman has said in interviews he’s been volunteering in war relief efforts, and one of his bandmates has served in a territorial defense unit.
The group arrived in Israel this week to perform at a pre-Eurovision concert in Tel Aviv. They separately announced plans for a promotional tour ahead of the main Eurovision event to raise funds for Ukraine.
Oddsmakers are predicting Ukraine will win the final in Turin, Italy, which is decided by votes from the public and a jury. Ukraine last won with the singer Jamala’s 2016 song “1944,” which references Soviet abuses in Crimea under Stalin, just two years after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia annexed Crimea.
In the 2009 contest, Georgia’s entry was a disco number entitled “We Don’t Wanna Put In.”Organizers rejected that song as being overtly political for its less-than-subtle reference to Mr. Putin after Russia’s war with Georgia the previous year.