Ukraine has pulled out of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest after three top acts refused to sign contracts with the country’s national broadcaster, UA:PBC.
Pop star Mauv originally scooped the honour of representing the singer after a televised performance on Saturday won her the public vote. But the singer, also known as Anna Korsun, soon came under scrutiny for her decision to perform in Russia, with presenters grilling her on air over upcoming gigs.
UA:PBC gave the 27-year-old 24 hours to agree to terms temporarily barring her from performing in the country.
The singer agreed to cancel the shows, but ultimately parted ways with the broadcaster after complaining about a contract she claimed would have turned her into a political tool.
Writing on Instagram, the singer said that the two sides were unable to come to an agreement after a gruelling seven hours of negotiation.
She said the contract, which included a general clause to “comply with any of NTU’s requirements or instructions,” would have “enslaved her.”
“Theoretically, they can force me to dance at a birthday party with some deputy prime minister, and if I refuse, they will disqualify me,” she wrote.
“I am a Ukrainian citizen. I pay my taxes and love my country. But I am not ready to go out there with slogans and turn my participation in the contest into a promotion for our politicians.”
UA:PBC later approached two more Ukrainian acts, Freedom Jazz and Kazka, to represent the country after coming in second and third place during the public vote. Both groups turned down the opportunity, with Kazka writing on Instagram that their mission was “to unite people with music, not to sow discord.”
The Ukrainian broadcaster has since defended the decision, blaming the performers for their links to Russia.
“The song contest is an opportunity for every country to showcase itself in the international arena, and for each performer to act as an ambassador,” it said. “But the national selection 2019 revealed a systemic problem in Ukraine’s music industry — the connection of artists to the territory of an aggressor state with whom we are in the fifth year of military conflict.”
The Eurovision Song Contest, celebrated across the world for its flamboyant celebration of kitsch European pop culture, has repeatedly been a flash point for declining Russia-Ukraine ties in recent years.
In 2017, Ukraine banned Russia’s Eurovision entrant, Yulia Samoylova, from entering the country to participate in the contest after the Ukrainian National Security Service barred her from the country for three years. The move came after information surfaced that Samoylova had performed in the annexed Crimean peninsula just two years earlier.
This year’s Eurovision final will be held on Saturday, 18 May, 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Clarification: This article has been edited to reflect ongoing changes and updates to this story.