So as you all know by now, Russia has picked up her toys, stamped her tiny feet, won’t broadcast the contest and is therefore OUT of Eurovision 2017 and, in the process, blames Ukrainian law for being inflexible and the web decides to explode.
However, the interwebs have missed one crucial aspect …
Russia were NEVER going to take part
We’ve all been played by the Putin government and its broadcasters into believing that some compromise might happen, and that the contest heals divisions. Nah mate, I reckon it’s been a totally cynical ploy by Russia from start to finish.
But how, Mr Phil?
Relations between Russia and Ukraine nosedived after the annexation of Crimea and a subsequent separatist conflict in east Ukraine which Moscow is accused of stoking. Not a good thing for international relations. Ukraine entered a song into the 2016 contest about Josef Stalin‘s mass deportation of Crimean Tatars during World War Two in order to make a point. Russia was already trying to buy victory by throwing the kitchen sink at their entry (it came third).
Tail very firmly between its legs, Russia realised that they must do something to undermine Ukraine … and what better way than to say you’ll enter the contest … in Ukraine. What a noble gesture! However the silence from Channel One Russia spoke volumes. All through the National final season the interweb was abuzz with will they – won’t they fervour as deadline day drew close. It appears now, though, that C1R, arguably aided and abetted by the Russian government, played the most cynical of all cards.
Is she all she’s cracked up to be?
They revealed Yuliya Samoylova as their contestant. Knowing full well that she had broken Ukraine’s law on entering Crimea by anything other than an approved route. Yulia uses a wheelchair, so surely Ukraine would have to bow down from international pressure: they can’t not allow in “crippled Yuliya“. With smug satisfaction, they must have thought they’d trumped Ukraine. Their plan had worked. There was no way that Mother Russia wouldn’t enter the contest.
Except there was.
That little thing called Ukrainian law. Ukrainian government officials checked and Yulia had indeed broken their laws. There was no way they could allow her in, and so they prompted issued a ban – as is their right. A ban against her and not the broadcaster. Cue Russian posturing (as planned all along): “Look at the bad Ukrainians being all mean to Yulia … aren’t we the paragons of virtue?”
Step forth the EBU
At this point the EBU tried to do something. For the record, the EBU has no right to intervene in international law disputes, because they are a broadcasting union and not a political entity – something the masses of the interweb should remember.
“Change the singer,” they said. As is Russia’s right, they refused, citing that Yuliya was picked as their singer and they had every right to send whoever they wanted.
The EBU then played a master stroke, in my opinion. “ OK then,” they said. “Sing the song live by video link. We’ll amend things here and allow it.”
That flummoxed everyone.
The Russians – who had clearly hoped for a lot more mileage out of “crippled Yuliya” – were wrong-footed. There was an acceptable solution after all. She wouldn’t be in the country- and no laws would be broken. They’d have to showcase the song for what it was: something entered at the last minute as a cover for their real plan.
They panicked and said no outright. And then said it wouldn’t be fair to poor little fragile Yuliya and was against contest rules (It isn’t, for the record). It didn’t matter anyway, because Ukranian TV issued a statement saying she was ‘persona non grata ‘ – meaning that her ban extended to appearing on state TV, via satellite or on stage.
And thus the stalemate continued. Ukraine officials time and again confirmed that laws had been broken. Russian officials issued photos of Yulia diligently preparing for Eurovision – even going so far as to show her filming her postcard.
And then, because it seemed as if nothing was happening, Russia blinked first by saying, “We won’t broadcast it and we’ll not come”. A final desperate act to make sure that they were seen as the “bigger men”, playing the martyr card to the last.
The truth is, Russia have played the game. They knew exactly how every step of this would go. Certainly from March when they presented their “song” and perhaps as far back as last July, when there was the first sniff of a problem with “blacklisted” artists. Creating the list, in my opinion, gave the Russian broadcaster a perfect way out, and they knew it. They formulated their strategy well and played it to perfection.
But what does the web think?
The interwebs seems to blame either Ukraine or the EBU, and I don’t get it. It seems that the morally affronted are quick to say, “Well it’s all Ukraine’s fault, their contest is a shambles and this proves it.” In fact, it shows that Ukraine’s law (remember Russia invaded Ukrainian territory) should have primacy.
This is, let us not forget, the very same interweb that thought Polina was the anti-christ (although Sergey was perfectly fine because he fitteds into their “mould” of the contest).
Is it OK that a sovereign state can push around the government of another one in the name of a song contest? Of course, it isn’t, and this is, ultimately, about much more than that.
This is about power, emanating from the Kremlin, over everything and everyone it sees fit. It’s about an ex-KGB agent who believes that he alone should bring back the Soviet Union and he’s going to be the glue that holds it together. It’s about a media PR Machine, backed by the Kremlin, using its influence to ensure that Mother Russia is seen as the one shunned – not only by Ukraine but also by the European Broadcasting Union.
Ah yes, another favourite topic of the interwebs: the EBU has been ineffective. If you read some of the dross on social media, they should have banned Russia, banned Ukraine, taken the contest to Berlin, or cancelled the event completely. What, seriously, do you think the EBU is? It’s a umbrella organisation that handles cooperation and resource sharing between broadcasters. Taking the contest away would almost certainly damage this ‘union’ and, by definition, the future of the contest. And then people like me would have nothing to write about.
Banning Russia and/or Ukraine would be self-defeating. Russia brings in money and viewers. Ukraine has (legally) done nothing wrong. Whilst we saw the outgoing head of the EBU claim that she wouldn’t have handled things in this way, she isn’t in charge of the Eurovision Song Contest. Jon Ola Sand and the Reference Committee are. Like it or not, they’re making a television show, and not hoping to deliver on anyone’s ‘hopes and dreams’. A television show that needs money and entrants to survive.
Ukraine’s only “crime” appears to be that they have been woeful in its organisation, but (my experience of attending Eurovision for longer than seems right) is that this is simply the Eastern European way of doing things.
Are you going to get a show? Of course you are, and you always were.
Russia have played a PR Masterstroke. Like the evil villain in any James Bond film, they can sit back and stroke their pussy, safe in the knowledge that they believe they are right and that the world is against them. Ukraine and the EBU can insist that they tried their best and point out they banned nobody. The Interwebs too may be satisfied: they have their pound of flesh and license to righteous indignation – no matter how ill-informed or misdirected.
Ultimately, everyone is getting what they wanted, and that’s no bad thing … is it?
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