Russia irked by Ukraine’s ‘political’ victory in Eurovision

Jamala brought Eurovision victory to Ukraine with 1944
DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

Ukrainian performer Jamala won Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday with her ballad 1944 about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Soviet authorities during World War Two. The performance has been widely interpreted as a commentary on Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Russian politicians, commenting on Jamala beating Russia’s Sergei Lazarev, who had been seen as a favourite to win the contest, said the victory was political.

“It was not the Ukrainian singer Jamala and her song 1944 that won the Eurovision 2016, it was politics that beat art,” senator Frants Klintsevich told local news agencies, calling for Russia to boycott next year’s Eurovision to be hosted by Ukraine.

The head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper chamber of parliament Konstantin Kochachev insisted that “according to the tally of points it was geopolitics that gained the upper hand”.

Russian state television had played down the themes of Ukraine’s winning song prior to the victory announcement but on Sunday slammed the choice as political.

“The viewers picked Russia to win, the experts chose Australia but in the end Ukraine won first place,” a news anchor on Perviy Kanal said as she introduced the segment.

Mass-circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda ran an online article entitled “How the European jury stole victory from Lazarev”.

The outlet called for the results to be reviewed because of the “political” content of Jamala’s song.

“It became obvious that this is an entirely political story – as we won first place in the public vote that was meant to counterbalance the juries.”

Lithuanian jury unimpressed

The Lithuanian Eurovision jury rated the Russian song dead last, though a member of the jury insists this had nothing to do with political tensions between Vilnius and Moscow.

Four of the five Lithuanian jurors gave the Russian song the lowest score, while viewers in Lithuania voted it to be 3rd after Latvia and Ukraine. The Russian entry was 3rd in the overall standing at Eurovision 2016.

“There can be no consensus in the jury, as the rules require that we vote individually. In my opinion, it is a clear copy of the performance by last year’s winner from Sweden, and the copy was not even very good in terms of technical, vocal aspects, as well as taste,” singer and actor Vidas Bareikis, a member of the Lithuanian jury, told BNS.

Lithuania’s Ambassador to Ukraine Marius Janukonis says that the European vote for the Ukrainian performance is an expression of solidarity.

“We see this as great success and indication of a high degree of European solidarity with Ukraine. It was not only high quality in terms of music, but also a reflect of the dramatic history of Tatars of Crimea, as we know that the Ukrainian performer was of the Crimean Tatar origin. It was support to Ukraine, its people and a sign of solidarity in the face of today’s events in Ukraine,” the ambassador said.

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