Ukraine has now pulled out of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest entirely – after its selection process descended into a political row over Russia.
The country’s original contestant, pop singer Maruv, withdrew from the contest on Tuesday 28th February, stating that she refused to be used as a “political tool” and would not agree to the national broadcaster’s restrictive contract.
The performer had won Ukraine’s popular vote, but after she stepped down two other acts were then approached by the national broadcaster and asked to take her place. Both declined.
Left without a contestant, the broadcaster has now chosen not to attend the May 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel at all.
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Maruv had been asked to sign a contract agreeing not to play any concerts in Russia in the lead-up to Eurovision, among other conditions. While the performer was willing to concede this clause, she argued that other clauses would have forced her to be a mouthpiece for propaganda – promoting Ukrainian politicians.
After being named as Ukraine’s Eurovision contestant on Saturday 23rd February, she was reportedly given 24 hours to sign the contract and, after talks stalled on the following Monday, the broadcaster revoked Maruv’s nomination.
In a statement explaining why she felt she had to withdraw, Maruv wrote: “I am a musician, rather than a tool of the political stage.”
Ukraine has an ongoing conflict with Russia, centring around the annexation of Crimea in 2014 by Russian forces.
Maruv’s entry Siren Song was the winner in Ukraine’s televised selection contest. After she withdrew, the second- and third-placed contestants were invited to replace her, but neither of them was willing to step in.
“We would have been honoured to represent Ukraine,” dance act Kazka wrote on their Instagram page. “But we do not need a win at any price. Our mission is to unite people with music, not to sow discord.”
Instead of approaching any other potential acts, broadcaster UA:PBC opted to pull out of the contest for 2019.
“The song contest is an opportunity for every country to announce itself in the international arena, and for each performer to act as an ambassador,” it said in a statement, according to the BBC. “But the national selection 2019 revealed… a systemic problem in Ukraine’s music industry: The connection of artists to the territory of the aggressor state.
“For some parts society, this fact is acceptable. In others, it causes indignation and rejection.”