Belarus has been excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest after failing to submit an entry that complies with the nonpolitical nature of the competition, with Minsk denouncing the decision as "politically motivated."
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said in a March 26 statement that a second entry submitted by the Belarus state broadcasting authority “was in breach of the rules that ensure the contest is not instrumentalized or brought into disrepute.”
The first song submitted by the band Galasy ZMesta was rejected earlier this month. That entry -- titled I’ll Teach You -- had lyrics such as, "I'll teach you how to dance to the tune.”
There had been complaints that the lyrics mocked the mass protest movement against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The EBU extended the deadline to give Belarus's national broadcaster, BTRC, a chance to submit another entry.
The EBU’s statement on March 26 said the BTRC had now missed the deadline to submit an eligible entry and “regrettably, Belarus will not be participating in the 65th Eurovision Song Contest in May.”
It did not provide details about the second entry but said that the EBU and the Eurovision Song Contest's governing board had "carefully scrutinized the new entry submitted by BTRC to assess its eligibility to compete."
Galasy ZMesta band leader Dmitry Butakov told Belarusian state television in an interview broadcast on March 21 that the band had prepared two new songs for the contest, including one about bunnies.
The band’s repertoire includes songs that ridicule the European Union and distort the Belarusian language. Members of the band are known for their participation in pro-government rallies, RFE/RL's Belarus Service report, and on their website state: "We cannot remain indifferent" when "under the guise of" political struggle "they try to destroy the country we love and live in."
Belarus's national broadcaster criticized Eurovision on its Telegram channel late on March 26.
"For Europe to be scared to allow a song on stage about rabbits -- this is the final and absolute disgrace," it wrote.
"The decision to disqualify us is politically motivated," Ivan Eismont, who heads Belarus’s Eurovision selection committee, was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.
It is not the first time that politics has mixed in to affect performers or their songs.
After Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2009, the Georgian band Stephane & 3G was to compete with the song We Don't Wanna Put In. The EBU objected to the lyrics and gave the band a chance to replace them, but both the band and the Georgian broadcaster GPB refused to participate in the contest.
Armenia’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015 had to change its title after it was seen as referring to the World War I-era mass killings of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turkey.
In 2017, when the contest was held in Kyiv, controversy swirled around Russia’s contestant, Yulia Samoilova, who was barred from entering Ukraine because she had performed in the Russia-annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2015. Russia, in response, decided not to allow her to participate by video or to send another contestant.
The Eurovision Song Contest is to take place May 18-22 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.