On March 31, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU, the organizer of the Eurovision international singing competition) confirmed the authenticity of the letter from Ingrid Delternre, head of the EBU, to Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, in which she threatened Ukraine with sanctions after the Russian participant was banned from entering Ukraine [which will host the competition in 2017]. Earlier, the Security Service of Ukraine banned the Russian participant Yulia Samoylova from entering the country because she violated Ukrainian legislation. In 2015, Samoylova performed in the Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia.
In the letter to Groysman, Deltenre warned that Ukraine could be excluded from future competitions if the Ukrainian authorities do not allow Samoylova into the country. In addition, the head of the EBU informed the Prime Minister that several participants are considering the possibility of withdrawing.
“No previous host country has prevented an artist from performing at the Eurovision Song Contest. The EBU would not like Ukraine to set a precedent in 2017. We consider the current ban of the Russian singer as unacceptable,” the letter states. According to the document, several countries have already approached the EBU, criticizing the Ukrainian decision and noting that they are considering withdrawing from the competition.
“We have not been made aware of any information that Julia Samoylova poses a security threat to Ukraine,” the letter points out.
On April 4, Groysman’s response to the letter appeared in the Ukrainian media. The Prime Minister gave his assurance that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would react to Delterne’s statements “in the near future”.
“We are acting within the framework of Ukrainian legislation. Ukraine is preparing itself intensely for Eurovision. I understand that the Russians may have wanted to destabilize us in some way in this regard. They understand that the person they chose cannot enter Ukraine according to Ukrainian national legislation, which is why the Security Service of Ukraine reacted the way it did, this is in their competence. But I emphasize that we are preparing properly, and all other issues will be dealt with,” Groysman said.
On April 4, during a joint press conference with Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis in Riga, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Russia’s choice of participant “deliberate provocation”.
“Ukraine absolutely clearly and consistently maintains its position of not recognizing the illegal annexation of the Crimea. Ukraine only permits visitation of the Crimea through the administrative border with the Kherson region, and any other way is a violation of Ukrainian legislation, which entails sanctions. Russia is completely aware of this, and the requirements are the same for everyone,” he said. According to Poroshenko, several possible solutions to these issues have been suggested [previously the organizers offered to broadcast Samoylova’s performance from Russia]. “It’s clear that what Russia needed was not participation in Eurovision. It needed provocation,” Poroshenko stated.
In its response statements to Deltenre’s letter, the supervisory board of the Ukraine’s National Public Broadcasting Company urged the EBU and its general director Ingrid Deltenre to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.
“The members of the supervisory board urge you “not to turn the European Broadcasting Union into an instrument which strengthens the political manipulation of others, and not to let such statements interfere with the normal and proper contest proceedings, this year or in future”. They also urge the EBU to avoid threatening to exclude Ukraine from participating in the Eurovision competition, pointing out that there is not one European country which recognizes the Crimea as belonging to Russia. Consequently, the Russian singer Yulia Samoylova has violated the sovereignty and laws of Ukraine by visiting the Crimea without the authorization of the Ukrainian authorities.
“We completely share the negative feelings of members of the EBU because ‘this year’s competition is being used as a tool in the ongoing confrontation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine’. However, we are surprised by the fact that the EBU general director’s ‘disappointment’ and ‘anger’ because of this has been expressed not to Russia, but to Ukraine. This completely contradicts Ms. Ingrid Deltenre’s statements about Eurovision being ‘apolitical’, because Ms Deltenre is taking sides with Russia and the political provocation created by Russia,” the members of the supervisory board of the UABPC stated.
Deltenre resigned from the position of general director of the EBU on February 23, 2017, and her powers end in summer, immediately after Eurovision.
Information also came to light on April 4 that ticket sales to the Russian pre-party, the last official Eurovision event before the main contest at which several competitors from other countries will perform, have been temporarily suspended. This is indicated on the website of the Vegas City Hall in Moscow, where the event is meant to take place.
“Originally 10 participant states of Eurovision 2017 agreed to participate in the concert, but due to the political situation which has developed, foreign guests have taken a pause,” the notice on the site says, “On April 3 foreign participants in the party started to inform the organizers that they will only be able to travel to Moscow if Russia is admitted to the voting”. According to the rules, broadcasting channels in participant states are not allowed to support the attendance of a party in a country which is not taking part in the actual competition and which does not vote. It is noted that if Russia is allowed to participate, the party will take place as planned.