Page last updated at 23:18 GMT, Saturday, 24 May 2008 00:18 UK

Russia scoops Eurovision victory

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Russian star Dima Bilan performs his Eurovision-winning song

Russian singer Dima Bilan has won this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Bilan is one of Russia's biggest pop stars and his heartfelt ballad Believe, produced by US R&B star Timbaland, gave Russia its first ever Eurovision win.

Ukraine's Ani Lorak came second with her energetic disco track Shady Lady, followed by Greece with upbeat pop song Secret Combination by Kalomira.

But British talent show runner-up Andy Abraham came last with his song Even If, gaining just 14 points.

EUROVISION TOP FIVE
Ukraine's Ani Lorak
1. Russia: 272 points
2. Ukraine (above): 230
3. Greece: 218
4. Armenia: 199
5. Norway: 182

Germany and Poland also received 14 points each, but they officially finished above the UK because their top scores in a single round were higher.

Dima Bilan won with a stage show that included Olympic figure skating champion Evgeni Plushenko performing on a small ice circle.

Bilan is a well-known performer throughout Russia and beyond, having been named best artist at the country's MTV Awards for the past three years in a row.

He took part in Eurovision in 2006, finishing second behind Finnish rock monsters Lordi.

He has recorded an album in English with Timbaland, including a duet with Canadian singer Nelly Furtado, and hopes to use it to break into the international market later this year.

I was sitting with a group of Russians and they were going absolutely crazy as the results were being announced
The BBC's Fiona Pryor in Belgrade

This year's other entrants included Latvian pirates, a Finnish heavy rock group, a 75-year-old Croatian rapper and French dance musician Sebastian Tellier, who has worked with Daft Punk and Air.

Swedish singer Charlotte Perrelli, who won the event in 1999, was another hot tip and was picked as the winner in a Europe-wide BBC poll before the event.

But she failed to become the first female singer to win the contest twice.

The show was opened in front of 20,000 fans at the Belgrade Arena by last year's winner Marija Serifovic.

The 20 countries that came through the semi-finals joined hosts Serbia plus the UK, France, Germany and Spain - the contest's four biggest backers.


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