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Transmission

Racism Scandal Hits Ukraine's Black Eurovision Contestant

A screen grab from Gaitana's official YouTube channel of the singer performing "Be My Guest" for Eurovision 2012 (see video below).
A screen grab from Gaitana's official YouTube channel of the singer performing "Be My Guest" for Eurovision 2012 (see video below).
Ukrainian nationalists have denied insulting a singer of African descent amid a deepening scandal over the Eurovision Song Contest.

Yuri Syrotiuk, a spokesman for Ukraine's nationalist Svoboda party, said he had never attacked Gaitana, a popular singer born to a Congolese father and a Ukrainian mother, for her skin color.

The scandal erupted February 20 when Syrotiuk said the 32-year-old singer should not stand for Ukraine at the pop contest because "she does not represent the Ukrainian soul."

Gaitana was selected on February 18 to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision finals in Baku, Azerbaijan, in May.

Many found the comments particularly misplaced since the singer, in her official Eurovision address, voiced hope that her song "Be My Guest" would help promote Ukraine as a "hospitable and friendly" country.

"I didn't make any comment about Gaitana," Syrotiuk told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on February 22. "What I said concerned the way the national selection was made. No party can determine who should participate and who should not. I said what Ruslana did was great, singing a national song. I didn't make any comment on Gaitana, her skin color, or her race."

WATCH: Gaitana's "Be My Guest" performance in the Eurovision song competition:


Ruslana, another popular Ukrainian singer, won the Eurovision contest eight years ago.

Like several Ukrainian celebrities -- including boxing champion Vitali Klitschko -- she has rushed to defend Gaitana, calling her one of Ukraine's best candidates ever for the contest.

Gaitana herself publicly reacted to Syrotiuk's remarks during a press conference in Kyiv on February 22, at which she appeared alongside Ruslana.

"I feel very ashamed of these racist comments because they destroy Ukraine's reputation in the eyes of the whole world," Gaitana said. "I know that a lot of Ukrainians are trying to convey a good image, we are doing everything so that Ukraine becomes part of the European family, so that no one is afraid of coming here."

The scandal comes just as the Council of Europe publishes a report deploring the lack of measures to fight rampant racism and xenophobia in Ukraine.

-- Claire Bigg
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
February 23, 2012 13:24
lets argue about "Ukraine's soul" ? whats your soul -white Russian-s ? neo-"Nashi" staff.
In Response

by: Frank
February 27, 2012 06:02
Why suggest that Russia and Russians are involved?

Is it because you're a bigoted creep?

RFE/RL isn't biased towards Russia. if anything it's the other way around.


by: anon
February 23, 2012 17:21
This is not a video of her performance, but rather a video montage.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 24, 2012 01:51
In the post-Soviet space there are big problems with nationalism and racism
Тhis is caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union where people of different nationalities were forced to live under the laws that contradicted to their habits and traditions.
Here it should be noted that racism and nationalism is in the U.S. and the West..

The racists were, many of them now, and they will always exist..

Besides racism inculcated by people like Putin. In Europe, there are two of the worst places where the raging racism on the orders of Putin...
It was he who created the two gangs-racist enclaves-South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where the thugs live under the laws of racism and discriminates against other ethnic groups.

It is unclear why Mr. Whitmore keeps silent on this issue...
perhaps he has instructions on what to publish and what not..
it is clear that Mr. Putin's anger is dangerous....You never know what will happen tomorrow.. word is silver, silence is gold..Yes, Mr.Whitmore?
People in normal countries should be protected from racism.
Unfortunately,currently in the former Soviet Union, there is no protection of people from racism ..
So, my dear Claire, say hello to Brian...
In Response

by: Frank
February 27, 2012 06:05
Putin appears to be less of a racist than Saakashvili.

Most Abkhaz and Ossetians seem to prefer Russia over Georgia.

At the same time, a not so distant poll cited by RFE/RL said that Georgians prefer Russians over any other group.
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 27, 2012 10:15
A good answer Frank! My congratulations..
By the way, what about Obama?He appears to be less of a racist than Saakashvili and.Putin taken together....But who knows...
In Response

by: Frank
February 27, 2012 10:44
Vakhtang,

Too bad that Russian government involved English language and PR attempts to level the playing field are compromised by some not so great choices that include crony appointments among other things.

A book shouldn't always be judged by its cover. With terms like Quisling and Uncle Tom in mind, this point applies to the ethnic background of people as well. Some of the best advocates for negatively misrepresented countries are folks who aren't ethnically akin to the people in the nations in question.

Obama is part of the American political establishment. I'm not a fan of people such as Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice.
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 27, 2012 15:16
Frank
---------
You noticed that the Abkhazians and Ossetians do not want to live in Georgia and want to live in Russia or in their enclaves created by Russia...

All would be nothing if we did not know that they do not want to live with Georgians in general and mainly because they want to live in their homes and apartments that are occupied after the expulsion of Georgians....
But that's not all..
Abkhaz ethnos is alien to Georgians since come to Georgia from the North Caucasus with their traditions and customs..
But is not the point...
All these Abkhazians do not want to live by the laws of civilization in compliance with private ownership and the Criminal Code.
They do not want...you never know what they want...probably your neighbors too do not want to live with you, Frank...for this and there is a law..
Abkhazians have a law on which you like second-class man,Frank, not stood up for these savages, they are thugs, murderers and racists..

by: Nusrat from: Bangladesh
February 24, 2012 18:39
je deteste les personnes qui font la discrimination. Cest une dommage pour le monde

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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