Ukraine Pulls Out of Eurovision Song Contest

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Israeli artist Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018.

The decision was made after winners of the national finals refused to sign deals with a local broadcaster.

Ukraine has withdrawn from the Eurovision Song Contest following a rights dispute between the country's national public broadcaster and the singer who was set to represent her country at the wildly popular pan-national singing competition.

Ukrainian singer Maruv won a public vote to represent the country at Eurovision, which this year will be held in Tel Aviv, but has now dropped out of the contest, citing a conflict dispute with the National Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (UA:PBC). In a statement Wednesday on its website, the UA:PBC said it had offered Maruv a contract to represent Ukraine at Eurovision, as it does every year with the winner of the country's national finals. "However, upon negotiations, Maruv refused to sign a contract," the broadcaster said.

Maruv, whose real name is Anna Korsun, said she would not accept UA:PBC's conditions, which included a ban on performing in Russia — Ukraine is at loggerheads with Moscow over Russia's annexation of Crimea five years ago. Ukraine still considers Crimea its territory.

Korsun said the network's contract included clauses banning her from talking to the press without UA:PBC's consent and barring her from any kind of improvisation during her performance. She also would have to hand over to the Ukraine broadcaster all rights to her Eurovision performance, even though, the singer said, those rights are already owned by Warner Music.

Ukraine bands Freedom Jazz and Kazka, which took second and third places in the Ukrainian national finals, also refused to sign contracts with UA:PBC, leading to the decision to pull out of Eurovision entirely.

Maruv was already a controversial choice. Some Ukrainian politicians argued that she should not be allowed to represent the country because she has regularly performanced in Russia. Many local fans, however, support the singer.

European power politics have often played a role in the televised song competition, which, on its surface, looks much like a cheesier version of American Idol (although Eurovision predates Idol by several decades). In 2016, Ukrainian singer Jamala won the Eurovision Song Contest with a politically charged tune about World War II deportations of Crimean Tatars from Crimea by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. When Ukraine hosted the contest in 2017 — the winning nation always hosts the next Eurovision competition — Ukraine banned Russian singer Yulia Samoilova from participating because she had performed in Crimea, 

This year's Eurovision in Tel Aviv has been overshadowed by calls for a boycott of the event by the pro-Palestinian Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions group, which encourages artists to protest the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinian people.