Ukraine’s public broadcaster on Monday refused to sign a contract with the performer who won the right to represent her country in the Eurovision contest — a move that follows a politically-tinged argument rooted in the nation’s tug-of-war with Russia.
Controversy erupted immediately after 27-year-old singer Anna Korsun who performs under the name of Maruv won the national finals Sunday to be Ukraine’s entry in the annual competition.
Several Ukrainian politicians argued Maruv should not be allowed to represent Ukraine at the contest in May in Tel Aviv, Israel, because she often performs in Russia. Her tours in Russia have become a toxic issue because of the tug-of-war between the two neighbors following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and support for separatist insurgents in Ukraine’s east.
The Ukrainian National Public Broadcaster promptly offered Maruv a contract that temporarily bars her from performing in Russia among other conditions, saying that she has 24 hours to sign it. After the talks that lasted for most of the day Monday, the singer and the broadcaster said they failed to reach agreement.
Maruv said on Facebook that she was ready to cancel shows in Russia but couldn’t accept other stipulations of the contract that she said would amount to “censorship” and force her to engage in political propaganda.
“I’m a citizen of Ukraine, I pay taxes and I sincerely love Ukraine,” she wrote. “But I’m not ready to carry slogans and turn my involvement in the contest into a promo-action for our politicians. I’m a musician, not a tool for the political arena.”
The public broadcaster said the talks with Maruv failed to produce a “common vision” regarding her “mission” in the contest. It added in a statement that the Eurovision contender must be the “cultural ambassador” carrying the view of the Ukrainian public.
The broadcaster’s chief, Zurab Alasania, said in a Facebook post that the company will sign a contract with another performer who would represent the country.
The Ukrainian Culture Ministry weighed in Monday, saying that only “patriots who are aware of their responsibility” should be allowed to sing for Ukraine at the annual pop contest while “thousands of heroes are dying for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
Despite the furor that surrounded Maruv, it’s not unusual for Ukrainian singers and bands to perform in Russia.
Maruv was grilled about her Russian shows during the national finals in Kiev over the weekend. Similarly, another entry, a duo of twins from Crimea, were put on the spot by the host and asked whether they consider Crimea to be part of Ukraine.
“Depending on your answer, you can either bury your own career or that of your mother,” the host said, referring to the women’s mother who is a judge in the Russia-controlled Crimea.
One of the sisters was brought to tears and said she would always stand by her parents if she were forced to choose between them and her career.
Eurovision has often become the pan-European platform for settling scores between countries.
When Ukraine was hosting the competition in 2017, it refused to allow Russia’s performer to enter the country because she had performed in Crimea without the permission of the Ukrainian government. A year earlier, a Ukrainian singer won the contest with “1944”, a song about war-time deportations of Crimean Tatars from Crimea by Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
In 2009, the European Broadcasting Union nixed the Georgian entry “We Don’t Wanna Put In” — interpreted as a clear dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin.