RUSSIAN hackers attempted to disrupt Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest, Italian authorities have said. 

Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra were the winners of the competition, with their entry Stefania receiving the biggest share of the public vote. 

However, during voting, the Italian police’s cybersecurity department blocked several attacks on network infrastructure by the "Killnet" hacker group and its affiliate "Legion".

In February, in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union moved to exclude Russia from the contest, 

Legion, had called on other pro-Moscow hackers to try and bring down the official site of the event. 

However, they were thwarted, though the EBU said they had noticed “irregular voting patterns” in the results of six countries.

More than eight million people in the UK tuned in to watch the finals, which saw Sam Ryder finish second, Britain’s best result in 20 decades. 

The TikTok star topped the national jury vote with 283 points, beating favourites Spain and Sweden, with Space Man. 

In a statement, the BBC said: “Sam’s performance was simply out of this world and we couldn’t be prouder of him, achieving the best result in 20 years for the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest, including winning the jury vote.

“Kalush Orchestra’s performance was incredible and generated a reaction both in the arena and around the globe like no other – we offer huge congratulations to Ukraine on their win.”

In a statement after the contest, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said the country looked forward to hosting next year’s event in the besieged city of Mariupol. 

He said: "Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe! Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision!

“We will do our best to one day host the participants and guests of Eurovision in Ukrainian Mariupol. Free, peaceful, rebuilt! I am sure our victorious chord in the battle with the enemy is not far off.”

After Kalush Orchestra's performance, frontman, Oleh Psiuk made impassioned plea from the stage urging the world to help to free fighters still trapped beneath the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

“Help Azovstal, right now,” he implored.

Martin Osterdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor, said in a statement that the organisation’s attention turned to next year’s competition and its “unique challenges”.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is the only cultural event that truly unites Europe. This year it’s been more important than ever to bring millions together through our common values and love of music.

“Now we will begin planning for 2023 with winning broadcaster UA:PBC.

“Obviously, there are unique challenges involved in hosting next year’s competition.”

Ryder found fame covering songs on TikTok during lockdown, amassing 12 million followers and catching the attention of global stars including Justin Bieber and Alicia Keys.

He was selected in a new collaboration between the BBC and global music management company TaP Music, which also revamped the promotional campaign.

The new strategy included ensuring Ryder’s single, Space Man, got played on BBC Radio 1 instead of Radio 2, and targeting smaller countries such as San Marino, Serbia, Croatia and Malta, which have the same voting powers as larger countries such as Germany.