That Ukrainian authorities’ reason for banning Yulia Samoilova, Russia’s entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest due to be held shortly in Kiev, from entering Ukraine is to prevent any Russian participation in the Contest at all, became clearer today when the Ukrainian authorities rejected a proposal from the Contest organisers that Samoilova be allowed to participate in the Contest via satellite.
This proposal already represented a serious concession – some would say an excessive concession – to Ukraine.
Russia is a member of Eurovision and its entrant is entitled to participate in the Contest fully and on equal terms with the other contestants. If the Ukrainians have rules or laws which prohibit Russian performers from performing in the Contest fully and on equal terms with the other contestants, then logically that is a reason why the Contest should not take place in Ukraine at all. However, instead of standing by this principle, the Contest organisers weakly proposed a compromise which would have treated Samoilova differently from the other contestants. Whilst that was intended to satisfy Ukraine, it nonetheless represents a retreat from the principle of equal access for all contestants upon which the Contest is supposed to be based.
In the event even that compromise, weak and unsatisfactory in principle though it was, proved too much for Ukraine, which is quite obviously determined to prevent Samoilova from participating in the Contest at all.
Behind this determination to exclude Samoilova from the Contest is the likely Ukrainian fear that she might win it.
I know nothing of Samoilova’s qualities as an artist or of the merits or otherwise of her song, but Russia has been a strong contender in the Contest for years and – judging purely from the rankings in the Contest in recent years – the statistical probabilities of Samoilova winning the Contest must be real.
Obviously the prospect of a Russian performer winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev is for the Ukrainian authorities beyond the pale, and it is clear they will do anything to prevent it happening.
Following the Ukrainian authorities’ rejection of the compromise proposed by the Contest organisers – unprincipled and unsatisfactory though it was – it remains to be seen what the organisers will now do.
On balance, with the West so heavily invested in supporting Ukraine, the probability must be that they will capitulate totally to Ukraine’s demands, and that the Contest will go ahead in Kiev without Samoilova participating.
Whether that leads to Russia boycotting the Contest in the future – as some Russians have hinted – remains to be seen.