Russia hopes Ukraine will rethink the decision to ban its Eurovision contestant over a visit she made to annexed Crimea.
Julia Samoilova has been banned from Ukraine for three years because she had entered Crimea “illegally” – entering directly from Russia, not via Ukraine.
A Kremlin spokesman branded the decision “unfair” and called for it to be reconsidered.
Samoilova has said she was “not upset” and “will keep going”.
Decision ‘on conscience’
She told Channel One state-controlled television, which selected her as Russia’s contestant with her song Flame is Burning, that she did not understand why Ukraine saw “some kind of threat in a little girl like me”.
“I will keep going. I somehow think that everything will change,” added Samoilova.
The 27-year-old singer had performed in Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, in 2015.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “The decision from our point of view is absolutely unfair, it’s unfortunate. And we hope all the same that it will be reconsidered.”
He said the decision to ban Samoilova “seriously devalues the upcoming contest”.
Who is Julia Samoilova?
- 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
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has described the ban as being “on the conscience” of the events’ organisers.
The 2017 Eurovision Song Contest is due to take place in Kiev in May.
The European Broadcasting Union, which founded Eurovision, has said it is “deeply disappointed” by the news and is speaking to Ukrainian authorities “with the aim of ensuring that all artists can perform”.