No Russian entertainers will be permitted to take part in this year's Eurovision Song Contest following the invasion of Ukraine, the European Broadcasting Union said on Friday.

The glitzy annual musical pageant, which has millions of viewers in Europe and as far afield as Australia, will go ahead without any acts from Russia, the EBU's executive board decided.

"In light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year's Contest would bring the competition into disrepute," the EBU said in a statement.

The call to exclude Russia from this year's event in Italy was "based on the rules of the event and the values of the EBU".

In addition, Russia residents will also be blocked from voting in the competition.

"They are completely excluded from the whole event," an EBU spokesman told AFP.

The announcement came after Russia on Thursday launched a full-scale invasion of its western neighbour.

The EBU said it had consulted widely among its membership before reaching the decision.

"The EBU is an apolitical member organisation of broadcasters committed to upholding the values of public service," its statement stressed.

"We remain dedicated to protecting the values of a cultural competition which promotes international exchange and understanding, brings audiences together, celebrates diversity through music and unites Europe on one stage."

The 66th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest is set to be held in May in Turin after the victory of lederhosen-wearing Italian rockers Måneskin in 2021.


This year is not the first time hostilities between Russia and Ukraine have spilled into the kitschy competition.

Moscow was angered when Ukraine won the 2016 contest with the ballad 1944 by Jamala, ominously describing the Soviet persecution of her ethnic Tatar people in Crimea.

The peninsula had been annexed again by Russia in 2014, when the Kremlin also began backing a separatist war that even before this week's invasion had cost more than 14,000 lives.

Eurovision passions were inflamed further in 2017, when competition host Ukraine banned Moscow's pick, a wheelchair-bound singer named Julia Samoilova, for holding a 2015 concert in annexed Crimea.


A furore followed during which Ukraine was threatened with expulsion from future competitions and Russia turned down offers for Samoilova to perform by video link or be replaced.

Organisers were eventually forced to drop Russia from the contest after its state broadcaster decided not to air Eurovision in protest.

The 2016 contest marked Ukraine's second win, after also taking top honours in 2004 with Wild Dances by Ruslana.

Russia meanwhile has won Eurovision once since the competition began in 1956, with the song Believe performed by Dima Bilan in 2008.

Last year, Russia's neighbour and ally Belarus found itself excluded from the competition, amid widespread unrest after strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth presidential term in a vote the opposition and Western diplomats said was rigged.

Source: AFP