Entertainment Music Russia and Ukraine out of tune over Crimea at Eurovision Song Contest
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Russia and Ukraine out of tune over Crimea at Eurovision Song Contest

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Ukraine has banned Yulia Samoylova from entering the country. Photo: AAP
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Up until Wednesday, Yulia Samoylova thought she was representing Russia at this year’s Eurovision contest with her song Flame is Burning.

But this year’s competition hosts Ukraine, still livid over the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, have doused those plans.

The country’s state security service (SBU) has banned the wheelchair-bound 27-year-old from entering the country for three years.

They say she violated Ukrainian law by entering the country from Crimea, in a ruling Russia has called a “cynical and inhuman act”.

“The decision was made based on the information about her violating Ukrainian law which we had received. That law is the same for everyone,” SBU spokesperson Olena Gitlyanska said.

Deputy Head of Russia’s State Duma Culture Committee, Yelena Drapenko, is not so convinced of the legal merits of the decision.

“I think it’s just a disgrace. What else could we expect from them?” she said.

“We should not participate at all in this competition. What they’ve done is a dirty act.”

Russian foreign ministry official Grigory Karasin, speaking to Interfax news agency, called the decision to bar Samoylova “another outrageous, cynical and inhuman act by the Kiev authorities”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia expected the decision to be reviewed.

Otherwise a boycott looks likely, Alexey Nikolov, managing editor of the state-funded Russian TV network RT, told the ABC’s The World program.

“For the 2017, I think we are not going to televise Eurovision and we are not going to send anyone, I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going to happen,” he said.

A history of dissonance

This is not the first time discord between the two countries has arisen at Eurovision.

Last year’s Ukrainian representative, Jamala, is an ethnic Crimean Tatar and in her winning song, 1994, alluded to the mistreatment of her people under Stalin, enraging Russia.

Ukraine, which won the right to stage the 62nd Eurovision event after Jamala’s victory, has also previously threatened to deny entry to certain Russian singers it deemed anti-Ukrainian.

In 2005, the Ukrainian hip-hop entry Razom Nas Bahato (Together We Are Many) by GreenJolly caused controversy as it was an unofficial anthem for the Orange Revolution which led to the election of Viktor Yushchenko over Russian-backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Drag queen Verka Serduchka’s 2007 entry Dancing Lasha Tumbai was thought by many to be named because of its similarity to the phrase “Russia goodbye”.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which operates Eurovision, said it was “deeply disappointed” by Ukraine’s decision, which “goes against both the spirit of the Contest, and the notion of inclusivity that lies at (its) heart”.

It said in a statement however that it had to respect the local laws of the host country.

“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,” the statement on the Eurovision website said.

Whether or not that dialogue is successful, Mr Nikolov says Ms Samoylova will get her chance to shine in the contest that captivates a continent eventually.

“I know our national organisers already promised Yulia that she will fulfil her dream and will go to represent Russia next year, 2018, no matter whatever country [is host].

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