Last week Ukraine’s security service SBU announced that it had banned the Russian candidate Julia Samoylova from entering the country for three years, thus ruling her ineligible to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. The country’s state broadcaster subsequently issued a statement saying it will respect and uphold its government’s decision. However, and despite the ongoing international furore, Ukrainian authorities have not yet sent written confirmation to the Eurovision Reference Group, which oversees the contest.
On Sunday Reference Group chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling explained the situation about Russia’s ban — and the contest more generally — in an interview with German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.
Will Ukraine be able to host a decent Eurovision?
He stressed that preparations are fully under control, but admitted that it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
“The preparations are running at full speed, but it was not always easy. That was partly because until now state broadcaster NTU had to be changed into a public service station by January 1. This led to significant structural shifts, but also to changes in the top personnel, which constantly delayed decisions. The Ukrainian government was also strongly involved in the preparations, something which did not always let the process gather speed.”
Many have worried openly whether Ukraine’s broadcaster is able to pull off a show at the level of last year’s edition in Stockholm. Will it have the technology to wow?
“The Eurovision Song Contest is not only made of the equipment from the host broadcaster. In the past few years, stage and technical equipment that was desired was bought internationally. In Kyiv it will not be different from Vienna, Copenhagen or Stockholm.”
Is Julia Samoylova’s ban still reversible?
Plenty of questions and controversy still surround the ban of the Russian singer Julia Samoylova, which resulted from her illegal visit to Crimea during the summer of 2015. Freiling understands the worry, but suggested it’s not too late to reverse the decision.
“There is still no official confirmation from the Ukrainian government to us. The president and the Prime Minster can override the decision of the secret service by decree. The EBU has to observe the Ukrainian law in this discussion. From the beginning on, we have stressed that all participants should be able to participate in this event. Should the ban remain, we will assure Russia that they can still participate in this event. Our initiative of a live stream was not accepted by either side.”
The Ukrainian Vice Prime Minster Vyacheslav Kyrylenko has repeatedly asked for Russia to send a new candidate — and one who has not broken the Ukrainian laws.
“We are still waiting for the final decision by the Ukrainian government. If they decide to not lift the ban, we will continue the conversation with Russia to see what solutions are useful. One thing we noted before the ban is that the Russian delegation did not take part in mandatory previewing sessions and did not reserve any accommodation, in contrast to all other delegations. Russia has to make its participation clear, just as we make must make it possible for them.”
According Freiling — and despite security official’s public statements — nothing has been decided yet and we should wait until official decisions are taken. Easier said than done…