Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka said his country may submit a new entry to the Eurovision Song Contest after the first one was rejected for being political.
The song I'll Teach You by the band Galasy ZMesta sparked a backlash for singing the praises of Lukashenka with lyrics such as, "I'll teach you how to dance to the tune, I'll teach you to take the bait, I'll teach you to walk the line."
Eurovision organizers on March 11 rejected Minsk’s entry and threatened Belarus with disqualification if it did not submit a modified version of the song or a new entry.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said the song would put the “nonpolitical nature” of the contest in question, and that “recent reactions to the proposed entry risk bringing the reputation of the ESC into disrepute.”
Lukashenka has faced nearly daily protests to step down since the country's presidential election on August 9 handed him another term despite charges the election was rigged.
More than 30,000 people have been arrested, hundreds beaten, and several people killed in the government crackdown on protesters.
Crisis In Belarus
Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.
Calls to kick out Belarus's entrant to the annual Eurovision Song Contest had been growing in the run-up to the event in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam on May 18-22.
"They are starting to press us on all fronts,” Lukashenka said on March 13 in his first remarks on the row. “Even at Eurovision, I see.”
"We'll make another song," he added, according to the presidential press service.
Belarus's national broadcaster, BTRC, on February 9 announced it had selected Galasy ZMesta to represent the country at the contest.
Galasy ZMesta has slammed the country's pro-democracy movement, writing on its website that the group could not stay "indifferent" while "political battles try to break the country we love and in which we are living."
The five-member group has backed Lukashenka, and its front man, Dzmitry Butakou, openly laments the breakup of the Soviet Union.