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Ukraine May Ban Russian Entrant From Eurovision Over Crimea Visit

Russian Singer Yulia Samoilova
Russian Singer Yulia Samoilova

Ukraine, which is hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest, is considering banning Russia's competitor because she has performed in Russia-annexed Crimea, according to Ukraine's main security agency, the SBU.

"The SBU is looking into the issue and will take a considered decision on her entry into Ukrainian territory," SBU spokeswoman Olena Gitlianska said in a post on Facebook on March 13.

She said the decision would be based on Ukrainian law, under which Ukraine reserves the right to ban people who have visited Russia-controlled Crimea without obtaining prior permission from Kyiv. Ukraine last year blacklisted 140 Russian performing artists on those grounds.

Ukraine won the right to stage the 62nd Eurovision event after its contender won the 2016 competition.

On March 12, Russia announced that singer Yulia Samoilova, 27, would be its entrant in this year's contest.

Samoilova, who suffers from a rare muscular disorder and is confined to a wheelchair, performed in the Crimean city of Kerch in mid-2015, more than a year after Russia annexed and occupied the Ukrainian peninsula.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the news site that "the security service is checking [Samoilova]."

"I think the law should be the same for everyone. Russia has been carrying out acts of provocation for many years," Klimkin said.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the choice was made independently by state-run broadcaster Channel One.

"We don't see anything provocative here," he said. "Practically everyone has been to Crimea. There is hardly anyone who has not traveled there."

"It's clear that one should wish to avoid any politicization of Eurovision, and we believe it is absolutely unacceptable," he said.

Last year, Russia accused Ukraine of politicizing the competition by choosing as its entrant Jamala, a Crimean Tatar, whose song decried wartime deportations of Tatars under Soviet leader Josef Stalin in the 1940s.

Ukraine expects about 12,000 to 14,000 spectators to attend the competition in May, with millions more watching on television.

With reporting by AFP, dpa, and Reuters
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