Thursday, April 13, 2017

EUROVISION 2017: THE RUSSIA VS. UKRAINE SAGA

Oh boy. Poor EBU. Poor Jon Ola Sand. I'm sure he needs a proper holiday once this drama is over. And I'm sure secretly he's hoping some less demanding country will win in May!

Let's start from the beginning. Russia waited til last minute to reveal their cards and whether they will participate at all in Kyiv 2017 and on March 12 announced it's going to be Julia Samoylova with Flame is burning (my review of the song here

It didn't take long the Eurovision fandome ridiculed Russia's decision to send a fragile girl in a wheelchair with a sugary ballad to avoid possible booing and making Ukraine look bad should they ban her.

And that's exactly what happened on March 22: Ukrainian authorities isssued a travel ban on the Russian artist as she had illegally entered the annexed Crimea (in other words entering without passing via Ukraine) and even apparently posted anti-Ukrainian propaganda in her social medias. According Ukrainian law a criminal act.

Russia was ready to call that decision cynical and inhuman and was ready to boycott the contest and not to broadcast it all unless she's permitted to take part. One can only speculate how well planned this all was as all of sudden Ukraine was the evil and Russia the victim. And hours later they had already planned her a Russian wide tour to promote her ahead of Eurovision 2018! As it seems they are ready to send her there next year if this year isn't working out.

EBU stated they are deeply disappointed but have to respect local laws and said they would continue the dialogue with those two countries to get everyone abroad in Kyiv.

On March 23 EBU proposed a solution "to maintain the non-political nature of the contest" to let Julia perform live via satellite. Soon came the answer from Deputy prime minister Kyrylenko stating that tours and TV shows with persons non grata are not allowed in Ukraine. The only solution is the replacement of the participant from Russia. And now that is not allowed in the EBU rules...

Later the same night Channel One Russia has rejected the offer. "We consider the proposal of remote participation strange and reject it, since it, of course, contradicts the very meaning of the event, the strict rule of which is the live performance on the stage of the Eurovision."

At this point we can only say & hope:

On March 25 Jon Ola Sand  told they have proposed Ukraine to set the ban only after the Eurovision for Julia, and Ukraine promptly declined it but the negotiations go on. Sand also confirmed several national broadcasters have contacted them to get things right and stated:
"The decision is taken by the security authorities, who have to follow the laws as they are, but we will appeal to the Prime Minister and the Government of Ukraine to overturn the decision, so that any travel ban will only come into force after the Eurovision Song Contest. Our main goal remains that the Russian participant comes on stage in Kiev in May. We are working hard."
Meanwhile Director General Carlo Romeo of SMRTV has stated: "As a State broadcaster does not we agree on the behavior of the organizers in Ukraine to the Russian competitor. We do not care if it’s a conspiracy or a Russian provocation, the Eurovision  (Song Contest) should be a neutral ground."
Also the Danish Jan Lagermand Lundme has voiced his concern about the situation and the preparations: "It is practically unbearable. I know that the EBU takes it very seriously, they should take no shit . The justification for that Denmark in the Eurovision Song Contest is of course that we have a place where we can meet across borders and differences, It is clear that I am concerned on behalf of the Danish TV viewers. We must demand to get some decent TV shows. There will certainly be a show, but we do not know how it is. It suggests that things are a bit out of control."

On March 26 Reference Group chairman Frank-Dieter Freiling told to a German newspaper that they are still waiting for the final decision by the Ukrainian government and that the discussion with Russia continues. But then: "One thing we noted before the ban is that the Russian delegation did not take part in mandatory previewing sessions and did not reserve any accommodation, in contrast to all other delegations. Russia has to make its participation clear, just as we make must make it possible for them." This blogger thinks Russia has no intention to take part, they are just playing with all of us..... No further comment.

On March 27 the German Thomas Schreiber, Head of Entertainment for ARD said “The Russian Broadcaster knew too well who they had chosen, and the Ukrainian authorities knew just as well what they were doing. This is a feud on a public stage.” He points out the Russian participation is the main goal and EBU should just keep trying to find a solution.
EBU spokesperson Dave Goodman confirms the dialogu continues to find a way out of this situation. He said the situation is not nice and "Russia’s participation is possible, Russia’s withdrawal is also possible if the two sides can’t come together. It would be nice if the EBU could find a way so that both parties involved can safe face. A solution that makes clear the the Eurovision Song Contest is exactly what the title says: A song contest and nothing else”.

On March 29 EBU's Swiss General Director Ingrid Deltenre, who will step down from her role this summer, appears rather furious in an interview she gave to Swiss Sonntagsblick: "This behavior of Ukraine is absolutely unacceptable," she says while negotiating with the only two men who can let Julia in Ukraine, Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hrojsman and President Petro Poroshenko. "I deeply regret the fact that the ESC is being abused for political action. The Eurovison Song Contest is supposed to delight and bring together millions of people; it must not be used to incite them against each other." If no solution is reached in the next few weeks, the top TV woman in Europe is already announcing sanctions against Ukraine: a temporary exclusion from the Eurovision Song Contest. This blogger is only asking why not ban Russia? After all it started the whole affair.....

March 31 Ukrainian Kiev Vlast leaked the letter EBU had sent to Ukraine's Prime Minister already on March 23, the day after Julia's ban. It seems EBU wanted to deal with the case behind closed doors isntead of this open in the air drama. (And they were right to want to handle it that way, IMHO). One can read in the letter other countries have contacted EBU critizing Ukraine's decision and even are ready to withdraw according to it (Yet so far no one hass even hinted the possibility publicly, Ed.note). Well read the letter yourself:
April 4, the president of Ukraine Poroshenki declared "Russia didn't need the participation, they needed a provocation. I am glad that this provocation was prevented and curbed thanks to the effective actions of the Ukrainian authorities. The Ukrainian government does not give in to this provocation. We act in a consistent and regular way to all those who violate the Ukrainian legislation. This is why we can not allow the crossing of the Ukrainian border for Yulia Samoylova."

In further Ukraine has answered to the "withdrawel of several countries"said by Deltenre: 
No country whose public broadcaster is a member of EBU has reason to challenge this restriction in Yulia Samoylova, since no European country recognizes Crimea as part of the Russian FederationMiss Deltenre has sided with Russia in political provocation organized by Russia itself. It can be seen as an interference in the internal affairs, which goes beyond the mandate of the EBU and the tasks relating to the organization of  the Eurovision Song Contest.

April 13: The flame is out. Russia withdraws. Final words (?) here


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