Beef Of The Week #351: Russia v Ukraine (Continued)
By Andy Malt | Published on Friday 21 April 2017
Russia is not unknown for threatening to boycott Eurovision, but this year it looks like it’s actually going to happen. As ongoing political tensions between host country Ukraine and neighbouring Russia seem to have certainly put the latter’s entry out of the competition, it’s now been announced that Russian TV stations won’t even broadcast the show.
As previously reported, Russia was already angry about Ukraine’s 2016 Eurovision winning song ‘1944’. Russia complained before last year’s event that Ukraine was breaking the rules by putting forward a politically-charged work, which it felt was clearly targeting Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Ukraine countered that it was about a totally different event in Crimea’s history and completely unrelated to the current situation.
Allowed to go through to the competition unchallenged, singer Jamala went on to win, which upset Russia even more. It was at that point – with Ukraine now set to host Eurovision 2017 – that the country’s officials started talking boycotts. And right up until the last minute it looked like that’s what would happen. Then, a day before the deadline, Russia decided it would put forward an entry after all.
Former contestant in the Russian version of ‘X-Factor’ Julia Samoilova, who also gained international recognition when she performed at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Socchi Winter Paralympics, was put forward with slightly rubbish song ‘Flame Is Burning’. So that was all fine.
Except that it wasn’t, because she has performed live in Crimea since the occupation. There’s a special blacklist reserved for artists who have done that, banning them from performing in Ukraine. She was not on that blacklist at the time, but Ukrainian officials said that they were now considering either banning her from entering the country, or letting her in and then arresting her. Great stuff.
This, said Russia, was an outrage and they demanded that Eurovision overseer the EBU do something about it. With Ukraine refusing to back down, the idea that Samoilova could perform via satellite was put forward. That seemed like an almost reasonable compromise. Except to Russia, which believed that idea to also be an outrage.
That’s roughly where we were up to last time we spoke about this a month ago. Since then, the EBU has seemingly continued to try and find a resolution that would suit everyone, but none has come. The last ditch effort was seemingly to try to convince Russia to enter a different artist instead. No dice. So that’s it; Russia is out.
In a statement, the EBU said: “These proposals were to either take part via satellite or to change their chosen artist to one who could legally travel to Ukraine for the duration of the contest. Sadly both proposals have been rejected by [Russian broadcaster] Channel One and they have now announced they do not intend to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. 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 Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, the event’s steering committee, added: “We strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to impose a travel ban on Julia Samoilova 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 Eurovision Song Contest in the host city Kiev. Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest with our member [Ukraine broadcaster] UA:PBC in May”.
So that’s a shame. Eurovision’s supposed to be a bit of fun that everyone can get involved in, regardless of their differences and political events, and that’s not happening. Still, maybe it’s for the best. Given the short notice provided by Theresa May this week, Russia probably needs the extra time to spend on rigging the UK General Election in June.