Russia says it won’t broadcast Eurovision Song Contest over singer’s Ukraine ban

Russia’s Channel One says it will not broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest after this year’s host Ukraine banned its entrant from entering the country.

Ukraine’s security services has barred singer Julia Samoylova because she “illegally” entered the Crimea to perform at a concert in 2015.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and considers the peninsula its sovereign territory.

Ukraine views the Crimea as illegally occupied and reserves the right to impose a travel ban on anyone who visits it without obtaining appropriate permission from Kiev first.

State-owned Channel One, which is responsible for broadcasting the popular TV contest in Russia, said it made the decision after it was told by the European Broadcasting Union that it had failed to settle the dispute with Ukraine.

Possible solutions suggested by the union were for Samoylova to perform via satellite from Russia or for the singer to be changed to one who could legally travel to Ukraine, both of which Channel One had turned down.

The EBU said: “Unfortunately, this means Russia will no longer be able to take part in this year’s competition.

“We very much wanted all 43 countries to be able to participate and did all we could to achieve this.”

Frank-Dieter Freiling, chairman of the contest’s steering committee, said: “We strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to impose a travel ban on Julia Samoylova as we believe it thoroughly undermines the integrity and non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest and its mission to bring all nations together in friendly competition.

 “However, preparations continue apace for the contest in the host city Kiev. Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular contest in May.”

Ukraine was invited to host this year’s final after Crimean Tatar singer Jamala won last year’s contest with a song about the suffering endured by her ancestors when they were deported from the territory by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Many Russians bristled at the song, which they saw as a tacit criticism of Crimea’s annexation.

In 2009, the EBU rejected Georgia’s entry, We Don’t Wanna Put In, a barely-veiled criticism of Russian leader Vladimir Putin following the previous year’s war between Georgia and Russia.

The contest’s grand final will take place on May 13.

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