Ukraine considers boycotting next year’s Eurovision if Russia’s Sergei Lazarev wins this edition of the song contest, currently in Stockholm, and the country gets to host it in 2017.
“If the person named Lazarev wins, UA Pershiy [TV network] will refuse to take part in the contest next year,” Zurab Alasania, head of Ukraine’s National Broadcasting Company, which runs UA Pershiy, was quoted as saying by the Russian news agency TASS.
Since Russia’s annexation of the peninsular region of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, Eurovision has to some extent become a proxy battleground for the two countries.
In May 2014, Russia’s entry in the contest, the Tolmachev sisters, were heckled in Copenhagen, while the Ukrainian entrant was cheered.
Two months ago, the announcement that Ukrainian contestant Jamala will enter the competition with “1944,” a song that hinted at Joseph Stalin’s 1944 mass expulsion of ethnic Tatars from Crimea, caused an angry reaction in Russia.
Some Russian politicians and legislators claimed the song was politicized and directed against Russia, but the European Broadcast Union (EBU), which runs the contest, found nothing political in Jamala’s song.
Both Lazarev and Jamala reached the final, which is to be held on May 14. According to bookies, Lazarev has the highest chances of winning the contest. In case he does, under Eurovision rules, Russia will host next year’s contest.
Lazarev has been very careful in his Eurovision statements and he told BBC the contest might help to improve relations between Russia and the West.
A few months after the brief military conflict between Georgia and Russia in 2009, Georgia’s entry, Stephane & 3C, submitted a song called “We Don’t Wanna Put In” that poked fun at Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The EBU said the song could not be performed because it contained a political message, but Stephane & 3G refused to make any changes to the lyrics or to replace the song and pulled out of the contest.