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Out Of Tune With Ukraine? 'Unpatriotic' Pop Diva Dropped From Eurovision

"I’m a musician, not a tool for the political arena,” Maruv says.

Who will represent Ukraine at the annual Eurovision Song Contest, the continent’s over-the-top camp crooner festival?

Pop diva Maruv was the initial pick after wowing the crowd in Kyiv on February 23 at the national final used to select the country’s entrant for Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv in May.

But despite winning after singing her provocative Siren Song, Maruv -- whose real name is Anna Korsun -- won’t be going.

Along with others, including several top politicians, the country’s national broadcaster suspects she’s just not patriotic enough and ruled her out, sparking outrage among her legions of fans on social media.

The reason?

Apparently, Maruv’s decision to tour in Russia after 2014 -- when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine with arms and other aid in a conflict that has cost some 13,000 lives.

It wouldn’t be the first time politics has reared its ugly head at Eurovision, despite the best efforts by the pop-music contest's organizers to keep it out.

In 2017, Ukraine banned Russia’s entry from coming to Kyiv to take part in that year’s contest due to her visiting Crimea without asking Kyiv for permission.

The Ukrainian National Public Broadcaster (UA:PBC) offered the 27-year-old pop singer a way out: sign a temporary contract not to perform in Russia and she would be allowed to perform in Israel in May.

Maruv said she was OK with canceling her shows in Russia but objected to other stipulations in the deal.

After talks broke down on February 25, Maruv posted to Facebook that the terms amounted to “censorship.”

“I’m a citizen of Ukraine, I pay taxes, and I sincerely love Ukraine,” she wrote. “But I’m not ready to address [people] with slogans and turn my involvement in the contest into a promo-action for our politicians. I’m a musician, not a tool for the political arena.”

Maruv performs in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 4.
Maruv performs in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on September 4.

The star, whose song has been watched 6.8 million times on YouTube, added: "I sincerely thank and appreciate everyone who believed in me and voted."

UA:PBC said in a statement on February 25 that the talks with Maruv failed to produce a "common vision" regarding her "mission" in the contest. It explained that the Eurovision entrant must be a "cultural ambassador" representing the views of the Ukrainian public.

In a Facebook posting on February 25, the broadcaster's chief, Zurab Alasania, said the company will sign a contract with another performer to represent the country.

Interjecting its view on February 25, the Ukrainian Cultural Ministry said that only "patriots who are aware of their responsibility" should be allowed to perform for Ukraine at the annual pop contest while "thousands of heroes are dying for Ukraine's territorial integrity."

Writing on Twitter on February 25, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kyrylenko said Ukraine's contest to find a Eurovision entrant had become "part of Russia's hybrid war against Ukraine."

"An artist who tours in the aggressor state, plans to do so in the future, and sees nothing unacceptable in this cannot be a representative of Ukraine," Kyrylenko said.

Maruv had been grilled during Ukraine's Eurovision entry competition about her Russian shows as well as the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula.

Asked if Russia was an aggressor, Maruv said that if the country has a bad president, that doesn't mean all the people that live there are evil as well. She has also said Crimea is Ukrainian territory.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes Eurovision, said in a statement it was the Ukrainian broadcaster's right to pick its competitor in the song contest.

“Each participating broadcaster is responsible for the selection of their participant for the Eurovision Song Contest in accordance to the rules set out by the European Broadcasting Union. The broadcaster is currently in talks to announce the representative for this year’s contest and once they are confirmed, will be announced on the official Eurovision channels,” the statement said.

Judging by the reaction on social media, there is plenty of support for Maruv and a lot of anger and puzzlement over the national broadcaster’s decision.

An online petition is circulating to get Maruv back into the contest.

Many felt Maruv had been cheated and made their feelings known on social media.

In 2016, Jamala, a 32-year-old singer from Ukraine, won the Eurovision Song Contest singing about the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union during World War II.

Organizers ruled that her song did not violate Eurovision rules banning performances containing "lyrics, speeches, or gestures of a political or similar nature."

But in 2009, the EBU ruled out the Georgian entry We Don't Wanna Put In -- ruling it was a clear dig at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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    Tony Wesolowsky

    Tony Wesolowsky is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL in Prague, covering Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Central Europe, as well as energy issues. His work has also appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists.