Eurovision 2019 is off to a flying start and across Europe the participating countries are announcing their acts for Tel Aviv. Or not, in the case of Ukraine.
Last week saw a national selection take place to choose Ukraine’s entry for Eurovision but the winning artist, Maruv, won’t be jetting off to Israel after all. When the show finished she was apparently asked to sign a ‘participation agreement’ which included clauses about performing in Russia. The singer had gigs lined up there which didn’t sit well with the powers that be.
This is a tricky topic.
On one hand, I can totally see it from the Ukrainian perspective, the country’s territorial sovereignty has been compromised by its powerful neighbour following the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Many Ukrainian artists who have continued to perform in Russia have come under pressure.
On the other hand, does performing in Russia really mean that Maruv is disloyal to the Ukrainian state? The fact that the singer was apparently questioned about Crimea live on air doesn’t really sit well with me. I’ve always argued that politics comes into Eurovision, just as it does with the Olympic Games or the World Cup, but this looks like a case of politics actively being played here. At the expense of the song contest.
The EBU do not get involved in national selections, and rightly so in my opinion. This is a matter for Ukraine to solve, but it’s also a matter of its own making, and one which could and should have been avoided in the first place.
The irony is that the winning entry, Siren Song, was actually pretty good and probably would’ve stood a decent chance of scoring well. It seems like Ukraine might have missed a trick if they wanted to score points against their neighbour, quite literally, since Russia’s Sergey Lazarev, who lost to Ukraine in 2016, is back.
This debacle is a shame all round, no more so than for the winning artist who was caught in a political tug of war. And we haven’t even got to Tel Aviv yet!
UPDATE 27 FEBRUARY
Ukraine has pulled out of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.
Fair play to the other artists who were approached to replace Maruv, all declined in solidarity with the winner of the selection.
This is a shame for Ukraine but ultimately, it was a mess of their own creation. A great pity for the artists who took part in the selection in good faith. Meanwhile Russia sits and waits patiently for Eurovision in May…
I actually hope that the EBU does get involved – overruling the result of a televised pre-selection is one thing, but the contract that MARUV was asked to sign (provided we have been given insight into the actual clauses) sounds more like a political manifesto than anything else. I doubt very much that the EBU has any right to intervene in the contract negotiations, but it seems only right that there is some obligation on their behalf to make sure entrants aren’t coerced into doing something that they fundamentally disagree with, politically or otherwise. Otherwise the old rule that Eurovision is apolitical starts to ring a bit hollow.
Ultimately I don’t think there will be any action taken against Ukraine – it has a population of 45 million, which is a big deal for the EBU.