By Alex Green, PA Acting Deputy Entertainment Editor
Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra have marked Ukrainian Independence Day by launching an appeal for the fighters who survived the battle for the Azovstal steelworks.
The facility became the last holdout of Ukrainian fighters and civilians during the fight for Mariupol, a city in the south east of the war-torn country.
Wednesday August 24th marks 31 years since Ukraine’s independence from Moscow’s rule.
Oleg Psyuk, leader of the Kalush Orchestra, urged fans to donate 24 hryvnias (55p) or more towards the rehabilitation of those involved in the siege, which ended in May.
Psyuk said: “Earlier this week, the entire Kalush Orchestra was together in Kyiv and witnessed a ‘parade’ of Russian equipment on the Maidan, Kyiv’s main square, which our Armed Forces turned into a pile of scrap metal.
“It shows our strength, power and invincibility.
“This year’s independence is also for all Ukrainians away from the front line, who are more united than ever and are also working tirelessly to speed up our victory together.
“No one will be able to take this independence away from us.
“Also, today we launched a collection of funds for the rehabilitation of fighters from ‘Azovstal’.
“On August 24, for 24 hours, we encourage our followers on social networks to donate 24 hryvnias each, all the funds will go to the rehabilitation of our military.”
The folk-rap group have become international spokespeople for the Ukrainian war effort since sweeping to victory at Eurovision in May.
They later raised more than £700,000 for the Ukrainian army by auctioning off their crystal microphone trophy, and plan to tour the US from October with a portion of proceeds going to relief efforts at home.
Psyuk recently said they were “grateful” to the UK for showing solidarity with Ukraine by hosting Eurovision next year on its behalf.
In June, the group delivered their first UK performance since they triumphed in Turin with a set on Shangri-La’s Truth Stage at Glastonbury Festival.