Eurovision bans Russia from song contest over invasion of Ukraine

Russian acts will not be allowed to compete in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, the European Broadcasting Union has announced.

Eurovision bans Russia from song contest over invasion of Ukraine

The EBU, which broadcasts the event, stated on Friday that Russia’s inclusion in this year’s song contest “would bring the competition into disrepute”.

The broadcaster’s board made the decision to ban Russia from the competition “in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine” and after reviewing the rules and values of the event.

Russia’s exclusion from the music show comes after its prime minister Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine on Thursday.

Since then, EU leaders have imposed sanctions against Russia, with further rounds expected to follow, while major sporting events have also been cancelled in the country.

READ ALSO: OPINION: This is Russia’s war, but we Europeans need to learn fast from our mistakes

In explaining their decision, organisers said Eurovision “promotes international exchange and understanding, brings audiences together, celebrates diversity through music and unites Europe on one stage”.

Russia’s removal from the event marked a U-turn for members of the board, who had previously remained impartial on the matter due to the apolitical nature of Eurovision.

Just one day before, the EBU said that the contest was a “non-political cultural event” and that they were intending to host participants from Russia, but their initial statement seems to have since been removed from its site.

Italy’s Maneskin, the 2021 winners, performs during the final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, at the Ahoy convention centre in Rotterdam, on May 22, 2021. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

However, as pressure mounted from other broadcasters, the EBU responded with the ban on Russian entries.

Finland’s public broadcaster Yle said on Friday that it was “pleading” with the EBU not to allow Russia to participate.

“Yle will not send a participant to the Eurovision Song Contest if Russia can participate in the competition,” it said in a statement.

Other public broadcasters in Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Norway also called on the EBU to ban Russia from the event.

The chairman of Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne, Mykola Chernotytsky, said in an open letter to the EBU that “Russia’s participation as an aggressor and violator of international law in this year’s Eurovision undermines the very idea of the competition.”

This year marks the 66th edition of Eurovision and is due to take place in Turin, Italy, after Italian rock band Måneskin won the singing competition last year.

READ ALSO: Turin chosen to host Eurovision Song Contest in 2022

The last time Russia took the title was in in 2008 with Dima Bilan singing ‘Believe’, although it has recently been on of Eurovision’s best performing acts, placing in the top five over the past ten years.

Crimean Tatar singer Susana Jamaladinova known as Jamala won Eurovision for Ukraine in 2016. (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV / AFP)

Russia was favourite to win in 2016, but Crimean Tatar singer Susana Jamaladinova of Ukraine, known as Jamala, snatched the title in a surprise victory with her song about Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s deportation of hundreds of thousands of this group of people.

For 2022’s event, Ukraine’s entry is hip-hop trio Kalush Orchestra, whose song ‘Stefania’ marks a tribute to the band members’ mothers.

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Germany will see further food price hikes, says minister

Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir believes German customers haven't seen the last of the price hikes in supermarkets and is calling for new relief measures to support the poor.

Germany will see further food price hikes, says minister

Speaking to Tagesschau on Friday, Özdemir said he believed that food prices hadn’t yet peaked in the wake of the Ukraine war and escalating energy crisis.

While inflation in Germany is currently at a record 7.9 percent, the cost of food products is going up at a much faster rate than many other consumer goods. In May, the price of food was on average 11.1 percent higher than it was in May last year. 

As the cost of living becomes increasingly unmanageable for low-income households, Özdemir is calling for VAT on basic food items to be temporarily abolished. 

“I think that would be good,” he told Tagesschau, adding that he thought the measure would also contribute to healthy eating.

READ ALSO: German Agriculture Minister wants to scrap VAT on fresh food

The debate on cutting or abolishing VAT on food has been gaining ground in recent weeks, with an increasing number of organisations coming out in support of the move. 

The German Social Welfare Association (VdK), the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) and the German Diabetes Association have argued that VAT on general food items should be slashed or abolished during the crisis.

But the Green Party politician was sceptical about the chances of success, telling Tagesspiegel that he doubted he could find a majority in the coalition government in favour of the move. 

Financial aid for farmers 

One of the reasons for the disproportion hikes in food prices is the increasing cost burdens faced by farmers for things like energy and fertilisers. 

To attempt to counteract this, the Bundestag has laid the groundwork for an €180 million aid package for agriculture business.

By the end of September, farmers and other agriculture businesses will each be able to claim €15,000 in state aid. One third of the money will be provided by the EU, the rest by the federal government

READ ALSO: Germans turn to food banks as cost of living crisis hits

The other major issue is the supply of grain from the Ukraine. 

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion began back in February, it has been impossible for ships to safely transport grain from the Black Sea ports to Europe and the rest of the world. This has had an impact on the price of products like pasta, bread and flour. 

The question of how one of the world’s largest grain exporters can continue to trade is a major theme of the Global Food Security conference, which is taking place in Berlin on Friday. 

Özdemir said that “lasting and efficient alternatives” were needed to ensure that grain exports could continue.  

German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir

Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykola
Solskyj, in Kyiv. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/BMEL/Photothek | Leon Kügeler

As long as Russia acts as a “permanent aggressor”, “Ukraine cannot rely on being able to transport its grain safely across the Black Sea, even in the event of peace”, the minister warned.

He suggested that a broad-gauge railway between the Ukraine and the Baltic Ports or trade routes along the Danube could be viable options.

For EU countries, Özdemir also suggested that rules around crop rotation could be waived this year, which would enable countries to repeatedly cultivate wheat.

According to calculations, this would allow “up to 3.4 million tonnes of additional wheat to be produced in Germany alone”, Özdemir said.

READ ALSO: When will Germany’s rising cost of living slow down?