Eurovision Drama: Now Ukraine Threatens to Bar Russia's Entry

The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Jamala of Ukraine.
Anna Velikova

The 2016 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Jamala of Ukraine.

Ukraine has threatened to bar Russia’s entry in the Eurovision song contest, wheelchair-bound Yulia Samoilova, from entering the country over her earlier performance in Crimea, a Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which is in charge of making decisions on barring foreign citizens from entry to the country, said that it has opened a probe into Samoilova's performance in Crimea back in 2015.

"SBU is looking into it," Ukraine's foreign minister Pavel Klimkin was quoted as saying by Russia's news agency RIA Novosti. "I believe that everyone has to be equal before the law."

According to Klimkin, Russia's decision to enter Samoilova, known for her performance in Crimea, into the contest, was a "provocation."

Ukraine maintains that the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in March 2014, is a Ukrainian territory, and entering it without permission from Ukraine is a violation of the law.

If her performance in Crimea is confirmed, Samoilova can be banned from entering Ukraine, joining a few dozen other Russian artists who were blacklisted for supporting the annexation of Crimea or performing in the region.

Ever since Ukrainian singer Jamala won the Eurovision song contest last year with the song "1944," focused on the deportation of Crimean Tartars by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1944, politicians in the two countries have made controversial statements.

The idea of Russia boycotting the song contest was seriously discussed over the few weeks preceding Russia's announcement of its entry.

Meanwhile, in anticipation that Russia may deliberately enter an artist banned from entering Ukraine to stir controversy, there were reports that Ukraine might temporarily suspend the "black list" of Russian artists for the duration of the contest. Still, Ukraine made no such move in that direction.

The "black list" features popular singers Oleg Gazmanov, Mikhail Boyarsky, Nikolai Rastorguyev, Iosif Kobzon, Valeria and Grigory Leps. Relatively little-known Samoilova was not on it.

Some Ukrainian legislators made other proposals. Rada member Anton Gerashchenko suggested that Samoilova should be allowed to entry Ukraine and then "punished" for illegal crossing of the Ukrainian border. "Let her come and take responsibility for breaking Ukraine's law," he said on his Facebook account.


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