Russia quits Eurovision Song Contest over row with Ukraine over singer

Francesca Gillett
Russian singer Yulia Samoylova, who was chosen to represent Russia in the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest: AP

Russia has quit the Eurovision Song Contest after host country Ukraine banned the Russian entry from coming to the competition.

Ukraine, which is hosting this year’s music contest, barred the Russian singer from entering the country in a bitter row over Crimea.

Moscow has now rejected two compromises offered by Eurovision organisers and has instead declared they will pull out of the competition.

The row began after Ukraine’s security services banned singer Yulia Samoylova from travelling to Kiev for the competition next month because the singer had recently toured Crimea, an area annexed by Russia in 2014.

Russia responded by accusing Ukraine of discrimination and breaking the rules of the traditionally non-political contest.

The stage being built for Eurovision at the International Exhibition Centre in Kiev, Ukraine (REUTERS)

The competition’s organisers hit out at Ukraine’s decision but said the contest would go ahead.

Ukraine offered Russia the option of putting forward another contestant or performer Samoylova could sing live from Russia via video link.

But Russia’s state broadcaster Channel One, said: “In our view this represents discrimination against the Russian entry, and of course our team will not under any circumstances agree to such terms," said Yuri Aksyuta, the station's chief producer for musical and entertainment programmes.

UK act: Lucie Jones will be performing at the Eurovision Song Contest final in Kiev (BBC/Guy Levy)

"Naturally, we are not taking part in the Eurovision 2017 competition under the terms that are being offered to us, and we will not broadcast it either.

"The absence of a Russian participant, in my view, is a very serious blow to the reputation of the contest itself, and for Russian viewers it is also another reason not to pay attention to the contest."

More than 204 million people watched the Eurovision Song Contest, or its two semi-finals, last year.

Ukraine claim Samoylova violated the country’s borders because she allegedly entered annexed Crimea without asking officials first.

Frank Dieter Freiling, a Eurovision official, said they “strongly condemned” Ukraine’s decision.

But he added: “However, preparations continue apace for the Eurovision Song Contest in the host city Kyiv. Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest."

The final of the contest will be held in Kiev on May 13.

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