Russia pulls out of Eurovision after singer barred from Ukraine

Russian broadcaster Channel One will not broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest because the country's competitor has been barred from host country Ukraine

Russia's competitor Julia Samoilova performed in Crimea in 2015
Russia's competitor Julia Samoilova performed in Crimea in 2015

The Russian television station Channel One has announced that it will not take part in next month’s Eurovision song contest or broadcast the competition because its contestant has been barred from the host country, Ukraine.

Ukraine is refusing to allow Julia Samoilova to perform at Eurovision because she toured Crimea in 2015, after the peninsula was seized by Russia in 2014. Ukraine banned the Russian performer under a law which excludes anyone who entered Crimea via Russia.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the competition, condemned the ban, saying Ukraine is undermining the non-political nature of the contest.

Frank Dieter Freiling, chairman of the event's steering committee, said the ban "thoroughly undermines the integrity and non-political nature" of the contest and its mission to unite nations in friendly competition.

But he added: "Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest in May."

The union, which produces Eurovision, said it had offered two possible solutions to Channel One. The proposals were for Samoilova to perform via satellite from Russia or for another contestant to be allowed to travel to Ukraine to take her place.

Channel One turned down both options.

"Unfortunately this means Russia will no longer be able to take part in this year's competition," the EBU said. "We very much wanted all 43 countries to be able to participate and did all we could to achieve this."

Russia and Ukraine have been at loggerheads since the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent separatist conflict in east Ukraine which Moscow is accused of stoking.

Ukraine is hosting Eurovision because its singer, Jamala, won in Sweden last year, with her song 1944, about the suffering endured by her ancestors during deportations under the regime of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Many Russians bristled at the song, which they saw as a tacit criticism of Crimea’s annexation.