Ukraine withdraws from Eurovision 2015, citing financial, political and military strain

Ukraine—a perennial favourite at the Eurovision Song Contest—has been forced to withdraw from the 2015 contest. NTU, the country’s state broadcaster, made the shock announcement on its web site this morning.

The unstable financial and political situation, military aggression from the east, the annexation of Ukrainian territories — all these events have forced [the broadcaster] to focus on the main [priorities of] NTU: the construction of public broadcasting in Ukraine. This is necessary to carefully optimize any cost. Therefore, the National Television Company of Ukraine…has decided not to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 2015.

The statement goes on to say that NTU is in negotiations with the EBU to broadcast Eurovision.

Given the ongoing violence and instability in eastern Ukraine, the network’s decision is understandable. Maintaining a functioning news body is more important than fielding a contestant to a song contest. Ukrainian artists understand that, too. According to Vlad Baginskiy, a producer of music programs at NTU:

We consulted with many artists, and they said they would not take part in the competition [saying that] now is not the time for fun. And the money that would be spent on the Ukrainian Eurovision 2015 is better spent on more important needs.

However, there does appear to be a glimmer of hope. NTU’s Director General Zurab Alasaniya hinted that if another body could help fund their participation, the country might still be keen.

If there is someone who wishes to help us — we will be only too happy. But I’m afraid we cannot pull off this project alone.

Few Eurovision fans can honestly say they saw this coming. Ukraine has placed in the Top 10 on eight of its 12 attempts, winning in 2004 and coming second in 2007 and 2008. Its Eurovision stars are part of the national fabric, as demonstrated by their presence in conflict zones in recent months. In a recent poll, our readers voted Ukraine their favourite country at Eurovision.

Yet the stress and strain on the Ukrainian delegation was starting to show this year in Copenhagen. The conflict in Eastern Ukraine coloured much of Mariya Yaremchuk’s experience competing. She had to walk the red carpet just days after dozens of Ukrainians were killed in skirmishes in Odessa. When we spoke to her she told us that her heart was bleeding.

But she put on a good face. When we spoke with her on her hotel balcony a week ahead of the contest, she was trying to stay positive and was as charming as ever.

Are you as gutted as we are? Is Ukraine one of your favourite acts every year? Do you think that circumstances will change and that Ukraine will turn up anyway? We hope and we pray.

Update on September 20, 2014: Mika Newton’s producer has offered to pay for Ukraine’s Eurovision participation.

Photo: Eurovision.tv (EBU)