Russian singer Yulia Samoylova has sung her Eurovision entry “Flame is burning” in Crimea as part of celebrations to mark the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, an act of defiance after host Ukraine barred her from the competition.
Ukraine said Samoylova could not travel to Kiev for the Eurovision finals, which began on Tuesday, because she had performed in Crimea in 2015, after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine.
Samoylova performed on Tuesday to the delight of thousands in the port city of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
“This (Eurovision) is not a song contest, this is not a contest of singers. This is a contest of politicians,” spectator Lyudmila Dobrovolskaya told Reuters Television. “We do not like such a contest.”
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but most countries still consider it part of Ukraine. Samoylova also sang “Victory Day”, a Soviet song composed for World War Two celebrations.
Moscow has accused Ukraine of discriminating against Samoylova and of breaching the contest’s rules.
Russia rejected two compromises suggested by Eurovision’s organisers to allow Samoylova to perform, and its state broadcaster said it would boycott this year’s contest.
Samoylova avoided mention of Eurovision and thanked the crowd in the central Nakhimov Square for inviting her on the symbolic day.
“I came here today with great pleasure and great joy,” Samoylova said in comments broadcast by Russia’s First Channel state television. “It is a great honour for me to perform here on May 9, and I will try and share this joy with you.”
The Eurovision contest attracts millions of television viewers across Europe. For many countries, especially former Communist states in Europe, performing well in the event is seen as a matter of national pride.