Volodymyr Zelensky has been barred from addressing the viewers at the Eurovision Song Contest. The Ukrainian president requested to make a surprise appearance during the final this Saturday, but was rejected by broadcasters including the BBC.
In his speech, Zelensky was hoping to address the 160 million viewers from around the world to support his country in the face of Russian aggression. But the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which runs the event, said it would risk politicising the contest, which is meant to stay free from politics (albeit somewhat unsuccessfully).
“The Eurovision Song Contest is an international entertainment show, and governed by strict rules and principles which have been established since its creation. As part of these, one of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event,” an EBU spokesperson said.
“This principle prohibits the possibility of making political or similar statements as part of the contest. The request by Mr Zelensky to address the audience at the Eurovision Song Contest, whilst made with laudable intentions, regrettably cannot be granted as it would be against the rules of the event.”
The spokesperson continued to express how the event has been highlighting Ukrainian music and culture throughout the semi-finals earlier this week: “No fewer than 11 Ukrainian artists, including last year’s winners Kalush Orchestra, will be performing.”
The spokesperson added: “The brand artwork for the event was created together with a Ukrainian design agency and the incidental music featured throughout the show also composed in collaboration with Ukrainian musicians.
“Additionally, 37 locations around Ukraine will feature in the “postcards”, short films that introduce each of the participating artists before they take to the stage. We believe that this is the best way to reflect and celebrate Ukraine’s Eurovision Song Contest win and show we are United By Music during these hard times.”
The Eurovision final will air this Saturday at 8pm live from Liverpool, who is hosting in honour of last year’s winner Ukraine.