Russia’s Channel One will not broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2016, following Ukraine’s decision to bar the Russian contestant Julia Samoylova, 28.
According to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Ukraine’s unprecedented step of banning Samoylova undermines the non-political nature of the contest. For the first time in its history, the Eurovision song contest will drop one of its current 43 national contestants for political reasons.
The Chairman of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, Frank-Dieter Freiling, said: “We strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to impose a travel ban on Julia Samoylova.”
Kyiv’s decision was based on the artist’s visit to Crimea in 2014 when the peninsula was annexed to Russia. Anyone who enters Crimea via Russia is not allowed to travel to Ukraine following the peninsula’s annexation.
EBU offered two alternatives to Russia. The first was to allow her participation via satellite; the second was to change the appointed artist to someone who could travel to Ukraine.
Ukraine won the 2016 competition in Sweden with Jamala, a Tatar, with a song called “Ukraine 1944” and devoted to Stalin’s deportation of Crimean Tatars during the Second World War.
The motto of the 2017 Kyiv Eurovision song contest is “celebrating diversity.” Samoylova suffers from spinal muscular atrophy and has been in a wheelchair all her life but went to make a name in show business as a 2013 X Factor finalist in Russia, also performing in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics.