Eurovision organisers ban Russia from 2022 song contest

European Broadcasting Union says its inclusion would bring event ‘into disrepute’

The organisers of Eurovision have kicked Russia out of this year's song contest, due to be held in Turin in Italy, following its invasion of Ukraine.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) move to exclude Russia from the annual music event is one of a growing number of actions taken by cultural and sporting bodies in response to the Ukraine crisis, with cancellations including Friday night's performance of Swan Lake by the Royal Moscow Ballet at The Helix in Dublin City University (DCU).

The EBU – the alliance of public service broadcasters, including RTÉ, behind Eurovision – said its executive board made the decision following a recommendation on Friday by the song contest's governing body, known as the Reference Group.

The recommendation of the Reference Group, which it said was based on the rules of the event and the values of the EBU, was backed by its television committee.

“The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” the EBU statement read.

“Before making this decision the EBU took time to consult widely among its membership.”

‘Non-political’ event

The organisation had initially signalled that Russia would be allowed to participate despite launching a military assault on its neighbour, stressing that the competition was a “non-political cultural event”, although it said on Thursday that it would continue to monitor the situation.

Pressure on the organisation grew, as broadcasters from the Netherlands, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Estonia joined those making public statements supporting a call from Ukrainian broadcaster UA:PBC for Russia to be suspended.

UA:PBC said Russian broadcasters have been “a mouthpiece for the Kremlin”, participating in “systematic dissemination of disinformation” against Ukraine, “contrary” to the values of the EBU.

Russia had yet to select a contestant, while Ukraine will be represented by hip-hop act Kalush Orchestra and the song Stefania.

Russia-Ukraine tensions previously spilled onto the Eurovision stage in 2016, when Ukrainian singer Jamala beat pre-contest favourites Russia with the song 1944, which documented the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Josef Stalin and was widely interpreted as criticism of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine.

There were calls within Russia for the EBU to review the victory on the grounds that the song was political.

As it changed its position on Friday, the EBU reiterated that it is an “apolitical member organisation of broadcasters” committed to public service values.

"We remain dedicated to protecting the values of a cultural competition which promotes international exchange and understanding, brings audiences together, celebrates diversity through music and unites Europe on one stage."

‘Unambiguous message’

Meanwhile, as it announced the cancellation of Swan Lake, DCU said it was “crucial” to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

"The Royal Moscow Ballet has been touring Ireland annually for over 10 years. The company is made up of many different nationalities; Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Uzbeks, Japanese, Irish and Polish cast and crew, who have travelled, worked and lived together for years," the university said.

"However, as a result of the truly shocking events that are unfolding in Ukraine, is it crucial that Dublin City University and all civilised countries take all practical steps to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and send an unambiguous message to the Russian Government that their deplorable actions have consequences that will have impact across political, economic, sporting and cultural spheres at all levels."

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics

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