Russia names Eurovision entry, despite boycott calls

Image copyright Channel One Russia/ EVN Image caption Former Russian X Factor contestant Julia Samoilova will represent the country in Kiev

Russia has announced its 2017 Eurovision entry, appearing to end speculation it might boycott the competition, being held in Ukraine, for political reasons.

Julia Samoilova will represent Russia in Kiev in May with the song Flame is Burning, state TV said on Sunday.

The two nations have been locked in political conflict since Russia annexed Crimea three years ago.

Russian MPs were among those urging a boycott of Eurovision.

Image copyright AP Image caption Russian MP Vitaly Milonov has dubbed the 2017 event in Kiev "Reich-vision"

Ultra-conservative lawmaker Vitaly Milonov said that Russians would be "unwelcome guests in a country seized by fanatics".

Ukraine is hosting the competition after its singer Jamala caused an upset by winning in Sweden last year.

Her song, 1944, was about Joseph Stalin's mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars during World War Two.

Some in Russia saw the result as political.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Singer Jamala won the 2016 competition for Ukraine in Stockholm in May 2016

In addition to the Crimea flashpoint, Ukraine accuses Moscow of arming separatist rebels in its eastern Donbas region, in a conflict that has claimed 10,000 lives since 2014.

  • Ukraine conflict: Russia accused of terrorism and discrimination
  • Eurovision 2017: Organising team quits en masse

Samoilova, 27, was announced as the entry on Russia's Channel One, just one day before the nomination deadline.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Ukrainian rock band O.Torvald were chosen to represent the host nation last month

However, there is already controversy surrounding the validity of Samoilova's participation, following reports she performed in Crimea in June 2015.

The Ukrainian security service (SBU) have previously blacklisted artists and performers deemed to have supported the Russian annexation.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to Russian news agency TASS, denied that Samoilova's selection was Russian provocation.

He said: "Undoubtedly, we would like to avoid politicising the Eurovision contest.

"We believe it absolutely unacceptable as far as the development of this international contest is concerned."

Who is Julia Samoilova?

Image copyright Channel One Russia/ EVN Image caption Samoilova was selected just one day before the 13 March deadline for nomination
  • The singer-songwriter was born in April 1989 in Ukhta, Russia
  • Her song Flame is Burning was composed by Leonid Gutkin, who also produced Russia's 2013 and 2015 entries
  • The Russian entrant has been in a wheelchair since childhood, suffering from spinal muscular atrophy: a neuromuscular disorder causing muscle wastage
  • She was a 2013 finalist in Russia's X Factor competition and performed at the opening ceremony to the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics

Samoilova is due to perform in the second semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest on 11 May in Kiev.

If she wins through she will take part in the final two days later.


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