Russia's Sergey Lazarev (C) reacts during the final vote counting during the Eurovision Song Contest final at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, on May 14, 2016.
Russia blames politics for Eurovision loss
03:38 - Source: CNN

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Tensions prompt Russia to pull out of song contest

Russian singer banned from Ukraine, where contest will be held

CNN  — 

Russia is saying goodbye to Europe’s beloved song contest Eurovision, organizers say, amid growing tensions with neighboring Ukraine, this year’s host country.

The annual Eurovision Song Contest features singers from the 43 countries that make up the European Broadcasting Union.

It’s known for it’s theatrical production, unique songs and patriotism.

The first Eurovision contest was held in 1956, making it one of the longest-running TV shows in the world.

More than 200 million people watched the TV competition last year, organizers said.

Ukraine-Russia tensions

Last month, Ukraine banned Russian participant Julia Samoylova from traveling to Kiev, where the Eurovision 2017 semi-finals and final will be held on May 9, 11 and 13.

Samoylova, is a Russian singer and composer, who jumped to fame after participating in Faktor A, a Russian version of the X Factor. She performed at the opening ceremony to the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics.

In March, allegations emerged that 27-year-old Samoylova illegally entered Crimea to perform in 2015, EBU said.

Ukranian law requires visitors to enter and exit Crimea with a special government permission since 2015, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

“We strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to impose a travel ban on Julia Samoylova as we believe it thoroughly undermines the integrity and non-political nature of the Eurovision Song Contest and its mission to bring all nations together in friendly competition,” Frank Dieter Freiling, chairman of the Eurovision Song Contest Reference Group said in a statement.

Due to the travel restrictions, organizers offered Russia some alternative options. They could take part in the competition via satellite or simply choose a different contestant who could legally travel to Ukraine.

Channel One, Russia’s TV network, rejected both options and announced they won’t broadcast this year’s the competition.

“We very much wanted all 43 countries to be able to participate and did all we could to achieve this,” Freiling said.

Eurovision has caused tension between the two countries before.

Ukraine won last year’s contest in Stockholm, Sweden, after singer Jamala triumphed with her song “1944.” The song caused consternation in Moscow as it was about the deportation of Crimean Tatars, an ethnic group. Former Russian dictator Josef Stalin accused the Tatars of collaborating with the Germans during World War II.

The song was labeled anti-Russian and Russian senator Frants Klintsevicheven said Ukraine’s win on Eurovision was a case of politics and suggested the country skip the 2017 contest.