Eurovision threatens to ban Ukraine from future competitions over row with Russia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Eurovision’s organisers have threatened to ban Ukraine from the upcoming singing competition unless it allows Russia’s competitor to enter the country.

Ukraine placed a three year ban on the Russian contestant, 27-year-old Yuliya Samoilova, after she illegally entered Crimea to perform in 2015.

The competition, which is set to be held in Kiev, usually sees singers from across Europe join in.

Ingrid Deltenre, head of the European Broadcasting Union, said that the board had sent a letter to the prime minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman, urging him to allow the Russian singer to take part.

The union warned that Ukraine’s current ban was “unacceptable” and the country “might be excluded from future events”, unless the ban is lifted.

Deltenre said that unless Samoilova is permitted to play then it “would certainly have a very big negative impact on Ukraine’s international reputation as a modern, democratic European nation.

“We are increasingly frustrated, in fact angry, that this year’s competition is being used as a tool in the ongoing confrontation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine,” she added.

Organisers of the contest offered Samoilova the opportunity to participate remotely, but Russia’s Channel One refused the offer, calling it “odd”.

The two countries have seen rising tensions after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

European Broadcasting Union execs previously threatened to pull the contest out of Kyiv over behind-the-scenes troubles, which has seen major decisions run months behind schedule.

21 staff from Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC walked out en masse – including executive producers, the event manager and head of security.

The European Broadcasting Union blamed “staffing matters” for the crisis, but the departing staff warned in an open letter that the contest was facing serious hurdles and that staff had been “completely blocked” from making any progress.

A decision to withdraw the contest from Ukraine was averted just months ago after the Ukrainian Parliament issued extra emergency funding to cover the cost of the contest, after delays on security, site preparation, set design, ticketing and transport.