Tensions spike as Ukraine bans Russian singer from Eurovision

The move infuriated Moscow, which rebuked Kiev for banning the wheelchair using singer. 

Published: 22nd March 2017 08:23 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd March 2017 08:23 PM   |  A+A-


KIEV: Tensions between Russia and Ukraine spread to the Eurovision Song Contest on Wednesday after Kiev banned a Russian contestant from entering the country over a past performance in Moscow-annexed Crimea.

Ukrainian security service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Gitlyanska told AFP that Yuliya Samoilova had been banned "from entry for three years" for having been "in violation of Ukrainian legislation."

The move infuriated Moscow, which rebuked Kiev for banning the wheelchair using singer. 

"This is yet another outrageous, cynical and inhumane act by the Kiev authorities," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the Interfax news agency.

The Eurovision organisers voiced disappointment at Ukraine's ban on the Russian singer.

Samoilova, 27, performed at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, as well as at a gala concert in Crimea aimed at popularising sport in June 2015.

Russia's participation in the Kiev contest in May is fraught with political tensions as the two ex-Soviet neighbours have been locked in a bitter feud since Moscow annexed Crimea in March 2014.

Ukraine had condemned the choice of the singer as a Russian "provocation," while the Kremlin insisted it opposed "politicising" the contest.

The contest, known for its kitsch but catchy pop songs, is avowedly politically neutral. 

Ukraine's security service had already blacklisted 140 Russian artists in October for openly supporting the annexation of Crimea and the pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Samoilova had not been among them.

A string of Ukrainian politicians have urged authorities not to be lenient toward Samoilova just because of her disability.

Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Brygynets wrote on Facebook this month that Russia was "hiding behind a disabled person" and that Moscow hoped "Ukraine won't have the guts to ban entry to a person in a wheelchair for breaking laws."

The singer has been in a wheelchair since a bad reaction to a vaccine in childhood, according to the biography on her website.

Eurovision had its first wheelchair user contestant in 2015 with Poland's Monika Kuszynska.

The contest comprises two semi-finals on May 9 and 11, followed by the final on May 13.


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