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Russian Eurovision Contestant's Surprising View On Crimea 


Russia's Sergei Lazarev has been tipped by many to win this year's Eurovision Song Contest with the tune You Are The Only One.

Russia's Sergei Lazarev has been tipped by many to win this year's Eurovision Song Contest with the tune You Are The Only One.

When Ukrainians selected a Crimean Tatar singer to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest earlier this year, many Russians were indignant.

The song performed by Jamala evokes the deportation of Crimean Tatars by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and is widely viewed as a thinly-veiled criticism of Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

But Russia's own Eurovision entrant, a favorite to win this weekend's contest, can hardly be described as an admirer of the Kremlin's seizure of the peninsula or the jingoism behind it.

A video showing Russian contender Sergei Lazarev discussing the Crimean takeover has surfaced online, creating a stir among both fans and foes.

​In the two-year-old interview to Ukrainian television, Lazarev said he still considered Crimea to be part of Ukraine.

"Maybe my own Russian fans will throw tomatoes at me, but this is the way it is for me," he said. "When I travel to Yalta, for me it's Ukraine."

He added that he "won't take part" in concerts where Russian performers chant from the stage that Crimea and Russia are one nation.

"I don't share this general euphoria," he said.

Lazarev, whose grandmother is Ukrainian, also revealed that he had turned down invitations to tour Crimea.

"At this stage I'm not ready to go there," he said.

While Lazarev plans to sing about love at the upcoming Eurovision contest, his offstage comments have already sparked calls for a boycott from some Russian viewers.

"I'll skip Eurovision this year," tweeted Dmitry Smirnov, a correspondent at the pro-Kremlin Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid.

"He doesn't support Russia but performs in its name on the European arena?" reads another tweet.

His remarks mark a striking departure from the vast majority of Russian performers, who have either thrown their weight behind Crimea's annexation or kept their views to themselves.

Those who have dared challenge the Kremlin about its actions in Ukraine, like veteran rock star Andrei Makarevich, have suffered a vicious backlash and lost countless fans in Russia.

Lazarev, however, has substantially toned down his criticism since the 2014 interview. In subsequent comments on Ukrainian television, he claimed that his words had been taken out of context.

And in April 2016, he refused to share his views on Crimea, telling the reporter that he no longer answered questions about politics.

Lazarev was nonetheless reportedly spotted at a Eurovision event in this year's host city, Stockholm, wearing clothes by a Ukrainian designer, in what has been interpreted by some as a discreet gesture of support for his grandmother's homeland.

The second semifinal of the contest takes place in the Swedish capital on May 12, and the final -- which Lazarev qualified for in the first semifinal on May 11 -- will be held on May 14.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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