Russia has officially pulled out of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest following the controversy which saw their singer Yulia Samoylova banned from entering Ukraine.
The former Russian X Factor competitor had been due to compete at the contest – due to be held in Kiev in May – with a ballad entitled Flame Is Burning, until it emerged that she had performed in Crimea in 2015.
Ukraine’s SBU security service subsequently said she would not be allowed to enter the host nation to perform following her ‘illegal’ visit to the territory, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
A number of solutions to the problem – including allowing Julia to perform by satellite link, or allowing Russia to select a different artist – were later rejected by the country’s Channel One, which broadcasts the show there.
As a result the EBU has now confirmed that Russia will not only not take part in Eurovision 2017 but that Channel One will not broadcast the show either, with the full statement given
‘Following the official confirmation that Russian Eurovision entrant, Julia Samoylova, will not be permitted to travel to Kyiv to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017, the EBU formally offered two alternative proposals to Channel One in a bid to find a solution that would enable Russia to continue their participation in this year’s event.
These proposals were to either take part via satellite or to change their chosen artist to one who could legally travel to Ukraine for the duration of the Contest. Sadly both proposals have been rejected by Channel One and they have now announced they do not intend to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. Unfortunately, this means Russia will no longer be able to take part in this year’s competition. We very much wanted all 43 countries to be able to participate and did all we could to achieve this.
Frank Dieter Freiling, Chair of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group, the event’s steering committee, said: “We strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to impose a travel ban on Julia Samoylova as we believe it thoroughly undermines the integrity and non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest and its mission to bring all nations together in friendly competition. However, preparations continue apace for the Eurovision Song Contest in the host city Kyiv. Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest with our Member UA:PBC in May.’apace for the Eurovision Song Contest in the host city Kyiv. Our top priority remains to produce a spectacular Eurovision Song Contest with our Member UA:PBC in May.’
Russia’s participation in the contest had already been in doubt following Jamala’s victory in Stockholm last year – but they later surprised everybody by unveiling their song and performer just a day before the deadline for songs to be submitted to the EBU.
Had Julia – who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy – taken part, she would have been only the second performer to take to the Eurovision stage in a wheelchair.
She had been due to perform in the second semi-final on May 11 in her bid to win a place in the grand final on May 13 – although may well have her chance to represent Russia in 2018, after broadcasters said she would be asked again next year if the Ukrainian ban went ahead.Russia’s withdrawal means they will be absent from the final for the first time since 1999, when they didn’t participate.
Russia’s entry has failed to match the positive responses received by Sweden, Iceland, FYR Macedonia, Israel and Azerbaijan in popularity.
Flame Is Burning has been written by Leonid Gutkin, songwriter of the Russian entries in 2013 and 2015, finishing fifth and second respectively.
Julia Samoylova, a former Russian X Factor competitor suffers from spinal muscular atrophy and will become only the second Eurovision participant to perform in a wheelchair. She was a special guest performer at the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games, and performed Serbia’s 2007 Eurovision winner Molitva in her X Factor audition.
Russia has sent some of the country’s biggest stars to Eurovision in recent years supported by expensive stage production and no expense spared in a bid to win Eurovision for a second time.
The surprise choice of Julia and last minute announcement of the Russian entry has left many Eurovision fans denouncing Russia’s efforts on social media as a cynical ploy by Russia to avoid a recent trend of their performers being booed by the audience.
Following anti-LGBT laws passed in Russia, the country has struggled to win over the large LGBT fan base that attends the Eurovision Song Contest every year.
In 2014, former Junior Eurovision winners the Tolmachevy Sisters were loudly booed in Copenhagen, reducing them to tears. In 2015, Russian superstar Polina Gagarina was selected and built a friendship with Conchita Wurst. She went on to finish second behind Sweden’s Mans Zelmerlow.