Ukraine has banned Russia's entry for the 2017 Eurovision song contest, Yulia Samoilova, from entering the country for three years, because the contestant had previously visited Crimea.
Olena Gitlyanska, a member of Ukraine's security service, announced the decision on Wednesday via a Facebook post. She included photos of 27-year-old Samoilova at a concert in Crimea.
Entering Crimea through Russia without passing through the border on the east of Ukraine, or gaining Ukrainian authority's permission, is illegal under Ukrainian law.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told state-owned news agency RIA Novosti that the decision was "cynical and inhuman."
Russians on social media have had a mixed reaction to the news.
Some have declared a boycott of the show, while others have said Russia's decision to send Samoilova, a wheelchair user, was a tactical move to cause controversy.
The contest is due to take place in Ukraine's capital Kiev from May 11–13.
The European Broadcasting Union gave BuzzFeed News the following statement on the ban:
It has been confirmed to the EBU that the Ukrainian authorities have issued a travel ban on the Russian artist chosen for the Eurovision Song Contest, Julia Samoylova, as she has been judged to have contravened Ukrainian law by entering Crimea in order to perform.
We have to respect the local laws of the host country, however we are deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the Contest, and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values.
We will continue a dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities with the aim of ensuring that all artists can perform at the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv in May.
Channel One and VGTRK media — who are responsible for Russia's Eurovision entry selection — released a statement to Russian outlet Meduza vowing that Samoilova will represent Russia in the 2018 Eurovision contest, no matter where it is held.
On Thursday, the European Broadcasting Union released a second statement, saying it would be offering Samoilova the opportunity to participate via satellite.
Taking into consideration that this ban might be upheld by the Ukrainian authorities, and in order to maintain the non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest, the EBU has been working hard to find a solution to this situation and has taken the unprecedented move to offer Channel One Russia the opportunity for Julia to still participate in this year’s Contest by performing live in the 2nd Semi Final via satellite. Should the Russian entry qualify for the Grand Final the same solution would apply. This is something that has never been done before in the Contest’s 60 year history but, in the spirit of Eurovision’s values of inclusivity, and this year’s theme of Celebrate Diversity, the decision has been taken to ensure that all 43 entrants are given the opportunity to participate.
Eurovision Song Contest Executive Supervisor, Jon Ola Sand said: "We are continuing our dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities with the ambition to have all artists present to perform in host city, Kyiv, which is, of course, our preferred option. It is imperative that the Eurovision Song Contest remains free from politics and as such, due to the circumstances surrounding Julia’s travel ban, we have felt it important to propose a solution that transcends such issues. We have offered Channel One Russia the opportunity for Julia to perform live via satellite as it is the EBU’s intention that every broadcaster that has chosen to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest does so, as has been the case for all previous events in the contest’s history."
Frank-Dieter Freiling, Chairman of the Reference Group, the governing body of the Eurovision Song Contest, expressed his hope though, that the political leadership of Ukraine will not implement the travel ban and find a solution in line with the contest's slogan, Celebrate Diversity.
Channel One declined the offer, calling it a "strange suggestion."
Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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