Ukraine Lawmakers Reject Bill Banning Russian Artists

Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock 
Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Ukraine. 

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has voted down a controversial bill that would introduce restrictions on all Russian artists' touring the former Soviet republic, the Ukrainian online newspaper reported.

The bill stipulated that artists representing Russia, "the aggressor state," would only be allowed to perform in Ukraine if they submitted to promoters a written document condemning "the occupation of Ukrainian territory" by Russia. However, only 174 Rada members voted in favor of the bill, with 226 needed for it to pass. The parliament speaker's proposal to send the bill back for revision similarly failed to generate enough votes, effectively burying the initiative.

Relations between the two countries soured in 2014, following Russia's annexation of the peninsular region of Crimea, which Ukraine now refers to as an occupied territory, and for its support for rebels in East Ukraine.

Ever since, artists have been -- willingly or not -- part of the conflict between the two countries. Last year, Ukraine banned some Russian artists who praised the annexation of Crimea, or in some cases even performed in the region, from entering the country.

Ukraine's "black list" includes singers Oleg Gazmanov, Iosif Kobzon, Valeria, Mikhail Boyarsky, Nikolai Rastorguyev and Grigory Leps.

Ukraine also released a "white list" of foreign cultural figures who supported it in the standoff with Russia, which features veteran rock singer Yuri Shevchuk and indie star Zemfira alongside the likes of George Clooney, Jared Leto and Milla Jovovich.

With Ukraine set to host next year's Eurovision Song Contest, there have been reports that the selection of a blacklisted artist as Russia's contestant is likely to lead to controversy.

Meanwhile, the failure of the bill restricting Russian artists' touring apparently put a lid on Ukraine's broader initiative aimed at preventing pro-Kremlin Russian artists from performing in Ukraine.

Several months ago, Ukraine's culture minister Yevgeny Nishchuk announced plans to create an agency that would prevent artists with anti-Ukrainian views from performing in the country.