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National

Russia-Ukraine Conflict Crosses Into Singing Contest

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's turn now to some fierce political drama - at a music competition. About 200 million people around the world tune in to watch the Eurovision Song Contest each May. This year, it's in Ukraine. And 43 countries plan on sending musical acts.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Might end up being 42 actually because Ukraine has banned a Russian singer from entering the country. 27-year-old Yulia Samoylova has been selected by Russia's Channel One to compete with this song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FLAME IS BURNING")

YULIA SAMOYLOVA: (Singing) After the night there's a light.

MARTIN: But in 2015, Samoylova performed in Crimea, the territory Russia annexed from Ukraine. And because of that, Ukrainian Security Services say they're not going to let her in the country.

INSKEEP: So it's part of this wider conflict. Last year, Ukraine won the contest, by the way, with a song about the mass deportation of Crimean Tatars during the Second World War by the Soviet Union. Eurovision is supposed to be nonpolitical. And Russia criticized that song, saying it violated the rules.

MARTIN: Jon Ola Sand is the contest's executive supervisor.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JON OLA SAND: We will continue a dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities with the aim of ensuring that all artists can perform at the 62nd Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev in May.

INSKEEP: Here's one possible solution. Eurovision officials have suggested that Samoylova could perform via satellite. But the Russians have said no, nyet. They rejected that option, saying it completely contradicts the very essence of the event. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.