In September Ukraine’s Minister of Culture confirmed that the country’s existing blacklist of Russian artists would remain in force during the Eurovision Song Contest.
And on Monday, in a further sign of the country’s hardline stance against Russia, Ukraine’s intelligence agency (SBU) revealed that Russia’s Eurovision 2017 singer Julia Samoilova is under investigation and may be barred from entering the country.
As Deutsche Welle reports, Samoilova performed in the Crimean city of Kerch in 2015 — more than a year after Russia annexed the territory.
That’s prompted the Ukrainian security services to investigate whether such action should rule her ineligible to enter the country.
Writing on Facebook, SBU spokeswoman Olena Gitlyanska said the security services will “study the question and take a balanced decision on her entry into Ukraine.”
The 27-year-old singer has spinal muscular atrophy — a neuromuscular disorder causing muscle wastage, which has left her reliant on a wheelchair. Her background and unique experience fits with Ukraine’s chosen theme for Eurovision 2017 “Celebrate Diversity”.
But since the announcement she will fly the Russian flag, journalists, bloggers and political commentators have all suggested that she was chosen for reasons beyond her voice and moving personal story.
Some have suggested that her selection is a move to mitigate potential booing — a threat Russia has faced for several years. Others believe choosing her is a deliberate “provocation” against Ukraine. For Ukraine to ban a singer with a disability would be counter to the slogan of this year’s Eurovision and would seem cruel and insensitive.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied the suggestion that Julia’s selection was meant to provoke this year’s hosts.
According to the TASS news agency, he told reporters: “I would not use such words as provocation, because it is a TV channel’s choice. I don’t see any provocation. Almost everybody was in Crimea, there is hardly anyone who has not travelled there.”
“Undoubtedly, we would like to avoid politicising the Eurovision contest.”
“We believe it absolutely unacceptable as far as the development of this international contest is concerned.”