Crimean Eurovision fans will still be counted as Ukranian in the official phone vote, despite the territory’s declaration of independence from the country.
The question of whether the result of the March referendum on joining Russia would be recognised by Eurovision authorities may not be the most pressing one in the disputed territory – but for the time being at least, the region’s infrastructure means the music contest (which goes to great lengths to keep politics out of the show) won’t recognise its change of allegiance.
As first reported last month by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the question of whether Crimean votes count as Ukrainian or Russian is “a merely technical matter”, Eurovision spokesman Jarmo Siim confirmed to BuzzFeed last week. “If the people in Crimea remain on a Ukrainian mobile network, as they are now, their votes will count for Ukraine,” he said.
But, he added, “if Ukrainian mobile operators decide to block traffic from Crimea, or if Russian operators make their services available in Crimea, their votes will count for Russia.”
But for the time being “it appears that they are still on the Ukrainian network” – although Siim added that the organisers were “keeping an eye on it”.
The fact that Crimea’s Eurovision fanbase has yet to switch nationalities could well benefit Russia in the contest – as phone voters can’t award points to their own country.
Ukraine, with a large population that identifies with Russia, has regularly given Russia high scores over the past decade (an average of more than nine points out of a maximum 12). Had Russia managed to annexe a large population of those sympathetic Eurovision voters, it could have hurt their chances.
Not that they might necessarily care; one local Russian lawmaker, who inspired the country’s “gay propaganda” law, recently called for a boycott of Eurovision – which is watched by an estimated 125million viewers across Europe – describing it as “pan-European gay pride parade.”
Ukraine and Russia will be competing against each other in the first semi-final in Copenhagen tonight, Tuesday May 6. Both are thought likely to progress to the final on Saturday May 10.