April 22, 2019

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Ukraine Singer Is Pulled From Eurovision After Her Patriotism Is Questioned

Ukraine Singer Is Pulled From Eurovision After Her Patriotism Is Questioned
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The audience loved her. Her song had all the hallmarks of being a hit at Eurovision, the flamboyant European song contest with a cult following. The tune had romance and easy lyrics, and the singer was accompanied by dancers and had a strobe-lit stage act.

The singer, Anna Korsun, whose stage name is Maruv, was on track to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision final in Tel Aviv in May. But now her chances have been derailed in an apparent geopolitical dispute after officials questioned her patriotism and her decision to tour Russia.

At the national finals last Saturday in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, Ms. Korsun faced an unusual grilling from the jury. Jamala, the 2016 Eurovision winner from Ukraine whose full name is Susana Jamaladinova, began by questioning Ms. Korsun’s coming tour.

Then she pretended to be a journalist in Tel Aviv and asked a surprising question in English: “Crimea is Ukraine?”

“Ukraine, of course,” Ms. Korsun answered.

(Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, drawing condemnation from around the world. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the eastern Donbass region has killed more than 10,000 people.)

Ms. Korsun’s answers did not seem to matter. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian national broadcaster announced that even though the public had voted for her, she would not be going to Tel Aviv. On Wednesday, Ukraine withdrew from the contest altogether.

The broadcaster said the decision to drop Ms. Korsun was based on a disagreement over her contract. They “had not found common ground in the mission of the representative of Ukraine at the international song contest,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

It also said that it had been unable to agree terms with other finalists and would therefore not send anyone to Eurovision 2019.

The broadcaster’s decision was backed by officials who questioned Ms. Korsun’s allegiance to Ukraine. The Culture Ministry said that only “patriots who are aware of their responsibility” should be allowed to sing at Eurovision, the BBC reported.

And the chairman of Ukraine’s Parliament said that any performers who tour in Russia should be banned from representing the country abroad, according to the news service UNIAN.

Ms. Korsun said she had been ready to cancel her concerts in Russia to perform at Eurovision, and she defended herself in a post on Instagram on Tuesday, writing: “I am a citizen of Ukraine, pay taxes and sincerely love Ukraine. But I am not ready to come up with slogans, turn my taking part in the contest into promotion for our politicians.”

Eurovision’s rules officially ban politics from the singing competition. But this wasn’t the first time that Russia’s influence in Ukraine has been evoked in the contest.

In “1944,” the song that won the Eurovision competition in 2016, Jamala sang about Soviet abuses under Stalin in her native Crimea. When it was Ukraine’s turn to hold the final, Russia’s contestant, Yulia Samoylova, was barred. Ms. Samoylova had performed in Crimea after the Russian annexation.

The European Broadcasting Union, which organizes Eurovision, said it was saddened by Ukraine’s decision to pull its contestant this year. But it said in a statement on Thursday that each broadcaster was responsible for the selection of its act.

Catherine Baker, a senior lecturer in 20th-century history at the University of Hull in England, said in an email that debates about whether contestants were fit to represent their country were common around the time of national selection competitions for Eurovision.

“But contestants have also had to become ambassadors in a more direct sense because of the publicity responsibilities associated with Eurovision’s growing scale as an international event,” added Ms. Baker, who has studied the role politics plays in the singing contest.

According to some observers, the public broadcaster’s move was unlikely to be popular with viewers.

“The scandal that has unfolded around Ukraine’s participation in Eurovision will certainly have a negative impact on the image of the Ukrainian authorities,” said Sergei Kozlov, a Russian political scientist, speaking to a radio station affiliated to the news agency RIA Novosti. “The means by which she was removed from participation in the competition caused extremely negative emotions among TV viewers.”

Fans of Eurovision criticized the decision to drop Ms. Korsun’s act. “Ukraine’s broadcaster has done itself a total disservice,” William Lee Adams, a journalist and founder of a blog about Eurovision, wrote on Twitter.

“MARUV was gonna bring y’all glory!”





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