Yulia Samoilova was selected by a committee to perform at Eurovision
The Eurovision conflict surrounding Russia’s contestant Yulia Samoilova shows no signs of subsiding. Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) banned the singer from entering Ukrainian territory on 22 March, after it was discovered that she violated Ukrainian law when giving a concert in the Crimean peninsula which Russia occupied in 2014. The latest correspondence of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which oversees the pop music contest, mentions it has not been made aware of any security threat Yulia Samoilova poses to Ukraine.
The poor communication abilities of Ukraine’s government structures come at no surprise. However, if EBU was not aware of Samoilova’s security threat to Ukraine, this doesn’t mean it’s not there. We will try to provide the arguments the SBU didn’t.
Ukraine’s rules on entering temporarily occupied territory
After Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014 and proceeded to finance, direct, and participate in an armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine adopted a law in June 2015 providing that foreigners may enter occupied Crimea through specified checkpoints at the border with mainland Ukraine with a passport and permit issued by the State migration service.
Violators of these rules will be brought to responsibility, the law states.
Similar rules exist for entering territories of Donbas not controlled by Ukraine, the “Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics.”
The existence of these rules is easily explained.
Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea had been condemned by the overwhelming majority of UN countries on 27 March 2014, following a sham “referendum” carried out under gunpoint. In December 2016, the UN recognized Russia as an occupying power in Crimea, and Crimea – as a temporarily occupied territory, demanding Russia fulfill its obligations of an occupying state and stop repressions against Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of the peninsula who were not afraid to oppose the illegal landgrab. Russia’s crackdown on human rights in occupied territory has been condemned in a vast number of resolutions by international bodies. The latest ones by PACE and the European Parliament specifically stress that Russia should stop repressions against Crimean Tatars.
Thus, the illegal entrance of temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine is a step directed at undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity and is a breach of its security interests.
Ukraine’s national security interests are especially damaged by such support being provided by people of the arts with a huge impact on public opinion. Ukraine’s acceptance of such violations means giving up jurisdiction over its temporarily occupied territories.
Samoilova’s concert in Crimea
Samoilova violated Ukrainian law when she gave a concert in Kerch, a city occupied Crimea when she gave a concert on 27 June 2015. The concert took place after an annual sports festival titled “World of sport and kindness” and was supported by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and was celebrated on an especially large scale.
The purpose of such a concert is overtly political: a propaganda event to boost the morale of the population of occupied Crimea, which is impacted by international sanctions, power and water shortages following the severance of communications with mainland Ukraine. The Russian newspaper argumenti.ru reported that the concert ended with a grand salute to the song “Russia, forward!” and organizer Viacheslav Tymoshenko, accompanied by a live tiger on stage, announced that only “kindness, which has a huge power” can oppose the international “hatred” which Russia now experiences.
Samoilova’s official VK page posted photos of her performance at the concert.
Росія обрала для участі в «Євробаченні-2017» співачку, яка виступала в окупованому Криму pic.twitter.com/qOdXG0oBA4
— Financial Guard (UA) (@finvarta) March 13, 2017
In an interview to Meduza, Samoilova herself said that she didn’t know she was violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine when she performed at that concert, adding that “it was a usual concert, everything was fine, I don’t know why everybody is so obsessed with it.”
To this, we can respond that:
- Ignorantia juris non excusat.
- If we are to believe that Samoilova is so naive to not be aware that her country occupied a sovereign land, believing that the committee that selected her was oblivious as well is harder. In the same interview to Meduza, Samoilova tells that she found out she will participate in Eurovision at the end of February 2017 when she got a call with a proposal to record a song for the contest. At the beginning of March, she knew she was selected by an internal commission at Pervyi Kanal, with no participation of the audience in the selection process.
The internal selection of a candidate which violated Ukrainian law by participating in a state-sponsored concert on occupied territory was no coincidence but a carefully selected move.
Ukraine’s authorities came out with statements that any other candidate who did not violate Ukrainian laws would be welcome to perform at Eurovision, but the law which Samoilova violated is one for all.
Other people Ukraine banned for the same reason
Ukraine’s decision is by no way random.
Up to date, 140 performers have been banned entry to the country over their actions in undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Kyiv refuses entry to journalists who enter occupied territories by crossing the border which Ukraine doesn’t control, as well to journalists who undermine Ukraine’s territorial integrity with their materials. Among the persons who are denied entry to Ukraine are such heavyweight figures as former USSR President Mihail Gorbachov, who stated that the occupation of Crimea was legal, and the world-known French actor Gerard Depardieu.
Meanwhile, the group of Ukrainian activists Vidsich argue that the SBU’s actions are not harsh enough, and protest performances of Russian artists in Ukraine which the SBU did not ban.
After all, would French people have been happy to receive German singers who performed during the German occupation of Paris in 1940?
After Samoilova was denied entry to Ukraine, the (EBU) first responded by a press statement in which it stated that while it respects the laws of the host country it is “deeply disappointed in this decision as we feel it goes against both the spirit of the Contest and the notion of inclusivity that lies at the heart of its values” and later offered Samoilova to participate via satellite, which the Russian side refused.
The EBU’s letter to Ukraine’s Prime Minister Groysman was less diplomatic. Sent on 23 March, it notifies Groysman that several Eurovision members are considering withdrawal, that Ukraine might be excluded from further Eurovision events, that Ukraine should find a solution to allow Samoilova to participate under the same conditions as the other 42 delegations, and that they were not aware of any information that Samoilova poses a security threat the Ukraine.
Ukraine rejected the proposal. “It is unprecedented and unacceptable to demand such extraordinary decisions from Ukraine for the sake of Russia,” Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko said on 1 April.
Despite being banned from entering Ukraine, Samoilova continues preparations for the contest.
- Read also: Is military aggression at the heart of Eurovision’s values? Open letter in protest of EBU statement
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