After one of the most contentious build-ups in Eurovision Song Contest history, the dust is settling on the Julia Samoylova controversy. But on June 12 the Eurovision Reference Group will meet to decide how — and to what extent — it will sanction the broadcasters in Russia and Ukraine over their perceived misuse of the contest.
Ahead of that decision, Billboard — the iconic American music magazine — has published an in-depth article on the matter, penned by wiwibloggs editor-in-chief William Lee Adams.
While many media have spoken of Julia, far fewer have actually spoken to her. The 28-year-old maintains that she did not have ulterior motives when she performed in Crimea in 2015 — the action that resulted in her ban from Ukraine earlier this year.
“I go onstage in different places — this is my job,” she says. “I had no idea that the [Crimea] concert would cause such a reaction.”
After she was selected, but prior to her ban, some fans worried for her safety in Ukraine, where anti-Russian sentiment is rife.
She wasn’t bothered, saying her biggest fears were her “weak English” and “the thought that I absolutely need to perform well to be worthy of the choice Russia made.”
The ban shook her. But for a woman who has overcome countless challenges before, it couldn’t dent her optimism and self-belief.
“The news that I could not come to the contest hurt me, but I never give up, never,” she says. “I would like to say to all the people — with physical challenges or without them — believe in yourselves, never give up and make your dream come true.”
After returning from #Eurovision 2017 in #Kiev, I started working on this story for @Billboard about how the UKR ??- RUS ?? conflict over #Crimea destabilized our beloved song contest. Four pages of #eurodrama on newstands now! ??????#eurovision2017 #eurovisionsongcontest #esc #esc2017 #billboard #europop #popmusic #wiwibloggs
Frank-Dieter Freiling, chairman of the Reference Group, also speaks frankly about Ukraine’s handling of the situation. He wasn’t happy.
“We had a promise in writing and orally from the prime minister down that everyone was welcome at the song contest,” he says. “We were disappointed Ukraine didn’t live up to their word.”
His comments mirror a recent interview given to Eurovision.de on June 2, when he defended the position of the Reference Group in the conflict.
“We tried to turn the process… and we threatened sanctions. But the host broadcaster had no choice in the end but to follow the political institutions, including the president and the secret service.”
Freiling said that Ukraine broke host statutes by not making sure that every country and artist would be able to participate. And the Russian broadcaster didn’t get off scot-free either. They didn’t show up to the compulsory HoD meetings earlier in the year — another statute violation that the reference group intends to sanction.
But what form will the sanctions take? Freiling did not want to speculate, but he did discuss the available options. “Our statutes provide for a number of violations, from a fine, the withdrawal of sponsor’s funding, to a suspension of up to three years.”