Eurovision organizers say Russians can still sing at competition

The BBC reports that the organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest have announced that Russian pop stars will still be eligible to perform at this year's competition, despite the Russian government's military aggressions against Ukraine:

Organisers called the competition a "non-political cultural event" and said they were "currently planning" to host entrants from both Russia and Ukraine at the event this May.

"We of course will continue to monitor the situation closely," they added.

Ukraine's state broadcaster UA:PBC had called for Russia to be suspended.

It said the Russian broadcasters, who oversee the county's participation in the contest, had been "a mouthpiece for the Kremlin and a key tool of political propaganda" and had taken part in "systematic dissemination of disinformation" against Ukraine.

It said this is "contrary" to the values of the EBU.

I have no particular feelings on the legitimacy of this decision, as everything I know about Eurovision comes from a Will Farrell movie; obviously, there are plenty of people who are Russian who do not agree with Putin's decisions, and should not necessarily be penalized by being excluded from an event that's ostensibly about unity. Still, this announcement struck as a sort of … odd priority, amidst other current events.

That being said, I did learn that Russian-Ukrainian tensions were apparently a major part of the 2016 Eurovision competition:

Russia were favourites to win the competition in 2016, until Ukrainian singer Jamala stole a last-minute victory with a song that depicted the deportation of Crimean Tatars by Josef Stalin in 1944 – a horrific chapter that the nation's parliament has described as tantamount to genocide.

The lyrics were widely interpreted as a criticism of Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Jamala, who is herself a Crimean Tartar, appeared to confirm the link when she told the press: "The main message is to remember and to know this story. When we know, we prevent."

On the path to victory, her song picked up several important votes from former Soviet countries who traditionally vote for Russia. Eurovision expert John Kennedy O'Connor called the result "a pointed slap in Russia's face".

Who knew that Eurovision was such a subversive theatre of war?

Eurovision: Russia can compete despite invasion of Ukraine [Mark Savage / BBC]