This year’s Eurovision song contest is once again intertwined with politics. Ukraine, which will host the contest this year, has banned Russian singer Yulia Samoilova from entering the country, citing an unauthorised visit to Crimea.
Ukraine’s SBU security service said it had banned Samoilova from Ukraine for three years for her ‘violations of Ukrainian legislation’.
Samoilova had visited Crimea in 2015, in a concert to promote sport. The Russian singer who has been a wheelchair user since childhood, also performed at the opening of the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but Ukraine regards the act illegal and continues to consider the peninsula as a part of its territory.
Crimea controversy also marked last year’s Eurovision, after a song by a Crimean entrant Susana Jamaladynova, won the competition, and gave Ukraine the right to host the 2017 contest.
Susana Jamaladynova, who goes by the stage name Jamala, won with her song 1944 about the deportation by Soviet authorities of the Crimean Tatar population to Central Asia. The singer, herself an member of Crimea’s ethnic Tatar minority, said that the song was ‘about both the events of 1944 and 2014.’
Jamala’s victory caused sharp criticism from Russia. Konstantin Kosachev, a top foreign policy official, said “political attitudes prevailed over fair competition”, while foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova threatened to make Russia’s entry in 2017 a song about Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
While Eurovision rules ban songs that contain political references, this is not the first incident of this kind, as Georgian entry was banned for containing references to Vladimir Putin, in the year when Russia hosted the competition.
Following Ukraine’s victory in the Eurovision, many in Russia argued against their country’s participation in the contest.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) released an official statement on Russia’s participation in the 2017 Song Contest.
It has been confirmed to the EBU that the Ukrainian authorities have issued a travel ban on the Russian artist chosen for the Eurovision Song Contest, Julia Samoylova, as she has been judged to have contravened Ukrainian law by entering Crimea in order to perform.
We have to respect the local laws of the host country, however we are deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the Contest, and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values.
We will continue a dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities with the aim of ensuring that all artists can perform at the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv in May.
In response to the ban, Russian state TV channel, which holds the right to broadcast Eurovision contests, said in a statement: “Ukraine didn’t even have the common sense to make use of this opportunity to look like a civilised country.”
This year’s Eurovision in Kiev has also been marked by the resignation of 21 top-level staff in charge of organization of the event.