Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been blocked from speaking at this year’s final of the Eurovision song contest, the show’s organizer said.
“One of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event,” the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the organization grouping dozens of public broadcasters and operating Eurovision, said in a statement late Thursday. The decision was made by “EBU management,” not its members, it added.
“This principle prohibits the possibility of making political or similar statements as part of the contest,” according to the statement.
“The request by Mr. Zelenskyy to address the audience at the Eurovision Song Contest, whilst made with laudable intentions, regrettably cannot be granted by the European Broadcasting Union management as it would be against the rules of the event,” the EBU said.
Kyiv denied Zelenskyy had made such a request.
“This is not true,” Zelenskyy spokesman Sergii Nykyforov told POLITICO. The “President’s Office has not applied to the organizers of the Eurovision with a request for a president to appear at the Eurovision final with the speech,” he said.
The news sparked a political row. Former Tory Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey was quoted in the Times saying the decision was “pathetic.”
“The only reason the contest is being held here is because of the conflict in Ukraine and it would be courteous to allow Zelenskyy to make a statement about why Ukraine is in the very unfortunate position of not being able to host,” he said.
Former European People’s Party MEP Gunnar Hökmark said the EBU defining the war as “political” was “shameless.”
Like last year, the EBU banned Russia from taking part in the contest because of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Veronika Melkozerova contributed reporting.