MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia’s main state television channel said Thursday it was dropping the Eurovision Song Contest from its schedules after Ukraine banned its performer from entering the country to take part.
“Channel One considers the refusal by Ukraine absolutely groundless. It is an attempt by Ukraine to politicise the competition,” a newsreader announced in its evening bulletin.
“In the current situation Channel One does not consider it possible to broadcast Eurovision 2017.”
Kiev has slapped an entry ban on Russia’s 27-year-old entrant Yulia Samoilova for performing a concert on the Crimea peninsula in 2015 after it was annexed from Ukraine by Russia.
The two former soviet neighbours have been at loggerheads since Moscow seized the region in 2014 and was then accused of fuelling a separatist conflict in the east of the country that has killed some 10,000 people.
Channel One announced it took the decision after receiving a letter from the European Broadcasting Union — which produces the glitzy annual event — saying it had been “unable to resolve the issue”.
The channel, which selected Samoilova as Russia’s contestant, refused an offer from organisers to let her take part via video link in the competition on May 13 in Kiev, insisting it would “discriminate” against the singer.
Organisers had threatened to ban Ukraine from future competitions unless it allowed Samoilova into the country to participate.