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Eurovision singer banned from Ukraine could be first to compete via satellite

Organisers are looking for a way to work around her travel ban.

A Eurovision Song Contest entrant who was banned from travelling to host country Ukraine may become the first act ever to compete by satellite.

Julia Samoylova, 27, was chosen to represent Russia in the annual singing competition, but has been given a travel ban by Ukraine which will stop her from getting to the event in Kiev.

She has been blocked from the country because she has toured in Russia-annexed Crimea without entering it by going through the border with the Ukrainian mainland.

Julia Samoylova
Julia Samoylova is not being allowed to travel to Ukraine (Maria Antipina/AP)

The contest’s organisers have been trying to find a way around the ban so that Julia can still take part and have offered Channel One Russia the chance for her to perform live in the second semi-final via satellite.

If she progresses to the Grand Final she would also perform through a link-up, the first time the solution has ever been used in the contest’s 60-year history.

Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) executive supervisor Jon Ola Sand said: “We are continuing our dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities with the ambition to have all artists present to perform in host city Kiev, which is, of course, our preferred option.

“It is imperative that the Eurovision Song Contest remains free from politics and as such, due to the circumstances surrounding Julia’s travel ban, we have felt it important to propose a solution that transcends such issues.

“We have offered Channel One Russia the opportunity for Julia to perform live via satellite as it is the European Broadcasting Union’s intention that every broadcaster that has chosen to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest does so, as has been the case for all previous events in the contest’s history.”

ESC Reference Group chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling expressed his hope that the political leadership of Ukraine would not implement the travel ban and would find a solution in line with the contest’s slogan for this year, Celebrate Diversity.

Lucie Jones Eurovision
Lucie Jones is competing for the UK this year (BBC)

Ukrainian Security Service spokeswoman Olena Gitlanska said that the service has banned Julia from the country for three years “on the basis of information received about her violation of Ukrainian law”.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin told the state news agency Tass: “This is yet another openly cynical and inhuman act by the authorities in Kiev.”

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have been high since the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the beginning that year of a Russia-backed separatist insurgency in east Ukraine that has killed nearly 10,000 people.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, said on Wednesday that it would negotiate with Ukraine on Julia’s entry.

Georgian Eurovision entrants 2009
The Georgian entry was disqualified in 2009 (Zak Hussein/PA)

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the contest, and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values,” the EBU said.

Ukraine won the right to host this year’s final when Crimean Tatar singer Jamala won last year’s contest with a song about her ancestors’ suffering during the deportations of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Many Russians bristled at the song, which they saw as a tacit criticism of Crimea’s annexation.

In 2009, the EBU rejected Georgia’s entry, a disco-flavoured song called We Don’t Wanna Put In, a barely-veiled criticism of Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the wake of the previous year’s short war between Georgia and Russia.


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