UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticises Eurovision’s decision to block Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from addressing the contest.
The decision by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to prohibit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky from addressing the Eurovision Song Contest final has triggered a wave of controversy.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has publicly criticised this decision, expressing his disappointment at the move perceived as undermining Ukraine’s fight for ‘fundamental’ values and freedoms.
“The Prime Minister believes it would be fitting for President Zelensky to address the event and we’re disappointed by the decision from the European Broadcasting Union,” announced Mr Sunak’s spokesperson.
He emphasized the significance of Ukraine’s struggle, arguing that it is not merely political, but fundamental to their existence.
Former PM Boris Johnson shared similar sentiments, highlighting the pivotal role that Putin’s illegal war played in the contest not being hosted in Ukraine. He expressed that it would have been right to hear from Zelensky during the final.
Backing the Ukrainian president, Damian Green, acting chair of the culture select committee, insisted that this year’s contest was a “unique event”. Green advocated for respecting the public sentiment expressed through their vote for Ukraine in the previous year.
In response to the criticism, the EBU stated that the contest is governed by strict rules prohibiting political statements. The EBU acknowledged Zelensky’s request to address the audience as laudable but emphasised it cannot be granted as it goes against the event’s principles.
The EBU affirmed its commitment to showcasing Ukraine’s music and culture, featuring 11 Ukrainian artists across the semi-finals and grand final, and airing short films from Ukraine.
Despite the controversy, the EBU maintains that the contest is a non-political event, striving to unite people through music during these challenging times.
The event in Liverpool, expected to draw more than 160 million viewers worldwide, will undeniably be charged with more tension given this backdrop of political dispute.