GENEVA – Eurovision song contest organizers say they have taken the unprecedented step of offering to let Russia’s contestant perform via satellite after authorities in host Ukraine banned her from entering the country — a proposal that was immediately rejected by a Russian state broadcaster.
The European Broadcasting Union says it’s proposing to Russia’s Channel One that Yulia Samoylova can perform live from Russia in the intensely popular TV song contest known for its wide variety of pop music and tacky outfits.
Eurovision executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said Thursday that show organizers are holding discussions with Ukrainian authorities, saying “it’s imperative that the Eurovision Song Contest remains free from politics.”
Samoylova, who is representing Russia in the May 11-13 contest in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, was banned by Ukraine’s security service because she had toured in Crimea after Russia’s 2014 annexation of that peninsula from Ukraine.
Russian state-owned Channel One, which is responsible for broadcasting the Eurovision Song Contest in Russia, said in a statement Thursday that it would not agree to broadcast Samoylova’s performance if it did not take place in Kiev.
The suggestion “contradicts the very point of the event,” Channel One said, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported. “The host country should provide all participants with the opportunity to receive a visa for the duration of the event.”
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, balked at the idea as well, writing on Twitter that “the broadcast of Samoylova’s performance by Ukrainian television channels would be just as much a breach of Ukrainian law as her entry into Ukraine.”
Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have been high since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the beginning that year of a Russia-backed separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Fighting between the rebels and the Ukrainian government has killed nearly 10,000 people.
Ukrainian law allows banning anyone who enters Crimea by routes other than over its de-facto border with the Ukrainian mainland. Most Russians go to Crimea by ferry or air.
Ukraine won the right to host this year’s show after Ukrainian singer Jamala won the 2016 event. Her winning song shed light on the horrific deportations of Crimean Tatars to Central Asia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, but also hinted at their recent treatment under Russian President Vladimir Putin.