Ukraine bans Russia’s Eurovision entrant over Crimea tour

Yulia Samoylova barred from song contest because she entered Crimea without going through de facto border with Ukrainian mainland

Ukraine, host nation for the 2017 Eurovision song contest, has banned the Russian entrant from entering the country, citing an unauthorised visit to Crimea.

The countrys SBU security service said on Wednesday it had banned Yulia Samoilova from Ukraine for three years for her violations of Ukrainian legislation.

The singer took part in a 2015 concert in Crimea to promote sport, the year after the peninsula was annexed by Russia. The 27-year-old, who has been a wheelchair user since childhood, had previously sung at the opening of the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

This is the second year running in which Eurovision has been plagued with Crimea-linked controversy, after a song by a Crimean entrant won last years event for Ukraine and it gave it hosting rights for the 2017 contest.

Susana Jamaladynova, who goes by the stage name Jamala, won with her song 1944 about the deportation by Soviet authorities of the Crimean Tatar population to Central Asia.

The singer, from the minority Crimean Tatar population that largely opposed Russian annexation, said before the contest that the song was about both the events of 1944 and 2014.

Ever since Jamalas victory, the biggest question over this years event in Kiev has been whether or not Russia would participate. The two countries have been locked in conflict since 2014, with Crimea annexed and Russian support for a military uprising in east Ukraine that has left thousands dead.

Prior to Samoilovas selection, there had been an argument in Russian musical circles about whether to send a representative to this years Eurovision, with many arguing against.

Some in Kiev have said choosing Samoilova was a cynical provocation, as Russian authorities knew her previous travel to Crimea would put her in violation of Ukrainian laws.

The Eurovision rules ban any songs that contain political references. In the past, a Georgian entry was banned for containing references to Vladimir Putin. Russia was furious that Jamalas entry was allowed to stand last year.

After Jamalas victory, Konstantin Kosachev, a top foreign policy official, said political attitudes prevailed over fair competition, while foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova threatened to make Russias entry in 2017 a song about Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

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