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Russia gets its first Eurovision song contest win

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Bilan's performance Saturday of the R&B ballad Believe brought Russia its first win at the yearly extravaganza of pop and rock. He

Bilan's performance Saturday of the R&B ballad "Believe" brought Russia its first win at the yearly extravaganza of pop and rock. He was joined on stage by Hungarian violinist Edvin Marton and Russian Olympic skater Evgeny Plushchenko, who pirouetted on artificial ice to the tune.

The act beat out Ukraine's Ani Lorak and Greece's Kalomira before thousands of flag-waving fans of Europe's most glamorous pop song festival.

Though mocked by many for its camp acts and over-the-top glitz, the Eurovision Song Contest, or Eurosong, is revered by its many followers. They often travel across Europe to support their favorite singers.

"Dreams can come true," Bilan said after the show. "Russia believed in our victory."

Serbia hosted this year's contest because Serbian songstress Marija Serifovic won last year's title with her ballad "Molitva," or "Prayer."

Authorities went out of their way to throw a well-organized party, seizing the chance to present the country to the world as a normal European nation after years of pariah status in the 1990s under late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

During the finals, a huge screen was put up in front of the Belgrade City Hall, and thousands gathered to watch the show. And after the winner was announced, fireworks lit up the sky.

The finale included 20 contestants who made it through two semifinals this week. In addition, performers from Britain, France, Germany and Spain, who are the biggest sponsors of the event, and Serbia, the host country, went straight into the final without having competed in preliminary rounds.

Bilan won 272 points from viewers from 43 countries who picked the winner with phone calls and text messages. Ukraine's Lorak was second with 230 points, followed by Greece's Kalomira with 218. 

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