22nd Oct 2016

Russian singers booed at Eurovision

  • Russia's Tolmachevy Sisters qualified for the Eurovision final on Saturday (Photo: Sander Hesterman (EBU))

They looked cute, young and innocent, but when the Tolmachevy twins were selected for the Eurovision Song Contest finale on Tuesday evening (6 May) in Copenhagen, the 10,000-strong audience booed.

The Russian sisters, who are only 17 years old and have already won a junior version of the pan-European song contest, carefully avoided press questions about Russia's politics and its role in the disintegration of Ukraine.

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Their song 'Shine' was about "telling all the world to show some love". It also contained the verses: "Living on the edge / closer to the crime /cross the line a step at a time."

Ukrainian contender Mariya Yaremchuck, who also made it into Saturday's final, was less tight-lipped about what is happening in her country.

"Everyone in Ukraine was shocked. Actually when I was preparing in Ukraine I couldn't even focus on working because we were all influenced by that," Yaremchuck said at a press conference in Copenhagen.

"It really affects me because I will try my best to prove that Ukrainians are a strong nation and conflicts end, but music lives. I hope Ukraine will start a new life and a new page," she said.

Geopolitics have always played a role at the kitsch-pop contest where countries can only vote for others, not for themselves.

In 2009 after another Russian military intrusion in Georgia, the country wanted to run with a Putin satire 'We don't wanna Put In', but the organisers said the song was too political and asked either to change the lyrics or run with another song. Subsequently, Georgia withdrew from the contest.

Booing however is rare at the live shows, says Ewan Spence, a Eurovision expert. He could only recall one other rowdy reception – of Sweden at the 2006 Eurovision in Athens.

As for the votes that came from viewers in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia, the organisers said they would still count for Ukraine.

"In Crimea, there is a Ukrainian telecom network in service. This means that the votes from the area are part of the Ukrainian televote at this year's Eurovision Song Contest," Stephanie Caflisch, a spokeswoman for the European Broadcasting Union told this website.

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