Tuesday night was the semi-finals in the Eurovision Song Contest, and Russia advanced to the finals in Copenhagen, Denmark, along with Azerbaijan, San Marino, Sweden, The Netherlands, Iceland, and Ukraine.
The seventeen-year-old Russian Tolmachevy Sisters celebrated along with their fans, but the news they would advance was greeted by loud boos in the audience.
The Eurovision competition is “taking place amid political tensions between Russia and Ukraine.” The Ukrainian situation is also raising tensions between the rest of Europe and the West that have not been seen since the middle of the Cold War. Ex-Soviet states fear they may be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next target.
When it was announced Ukraine also advanced, the audience exploded in cheers. Ukrainian artist Mariya Yaremchuck performed “Tick Tock” with a dancer in a hamster wheel in the background.
Here are the full performances from Russia and Ukraine.
This is not the first time politics entered the Eurovision contest. Russia came under fire after a law was enacted against distribution of gay propaganda in the summer of 2013. The country is still trying to convince the world it is not anti-gay, but on April 30, St. Petersburg legislator Vitaly Milonov, the man behind the law, said Russia should boycott the Eurovision contest because of the participation of Austria’s drag-wearing Conchita Wurst, a.k.a. Tom Neuwirth. Milonov also called the contest a “Europe-wide gay parade” and said even broadcasting Eurovision “could insult millions of Russians.”
Ruslana, the singer who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2004, participated in the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv at Independence Square.
In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, and the country tried to push through a song as a protest against Moscow. The song “We Don’t Wanna Put In” violated the rules because the European Broadcasting Union decided the chorus sounded too political.
Verka Serduchka almost got in trouble when people thought the song “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” sounded too much like “Dancing Russia Goodbye.”
Frances Martel contributed to this report.