Ukraine Bans Russia's Eurovision Song Contest Performer

Michael Campanella
Ukraine won last year's Eurovision song contest

Wheelchair-bound Yulia Samoilova was selected as a participant with her song "Flame is Burning," but host nation Ukraine says she can't enter due to a 2015 performance in Crimea, a peninsular annexed by Russia.

Ukraine has banned Yulia Samoilova, Russia’s entry in this year's Eurovision song contest, from entering the country, ruling out her participation in the contest, which is set to take place in Kiev after Ukraine's win last year.

"The Security Service Ukraine [SBU] banned Russian citizen Yulia Samoilova from entering the territory of Ukraine for three years," Yelena Gitlyanskaya, a representative of the SBU, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Interfax.

The SBU explained its decision by the fact that back in 2015, Samoilova (also known as Yuliya Samoylova) performed in Crimea, a peninsular region annexed by Russia from Ukraine. According to Ukrainian law, entering Crimea via Russia without passing through the de-facto border is illegal.

As soon as the 27-year-old, wheelchair-bound Samoilova was selected as Russia's participant with the song "Flame is Burning," information about her Crimean performance was revealed, and the SBU launched a probe to determine whether it was correct.

Some Ukrainian politicians and officials said that Russia had deliberately chosen Samoilova to represent the country to provoke controversy. She sang during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Russia in 2014.

"We have to respect the local laws of the host country, however we are deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the contest and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values," the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Eurovision's organizer, said in a statement.

"We will continue a dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities with the aim of ensuring that all artists can perform at the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev in May," it added.

Meanwhile, Russia reacted angrily to Ukraine's decision. Frants Klintsevich, deputy head of the defense and security committee at the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, was quoted by newspaper Moskovski Komsomolets as saying that Russia would boycott all subsequent Eurovision editions unless the EBU condemns the ban of Samoilova.

Earlier this week, there were reports that Armenia's entry, Artsvik Arutunyan, is also facing scrutiny from the SBU over an alleged visit to Crimea, which Ukraine considers an occupied territory, and is also facing a ban from performing at the Eurovision contest this year. 

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