Eurovision week is underway, with the first semi-final taking place on Tuesday 10 May.
Russia has been banned from this year’s Song Contest, marking the first time the country will not participate since its debut in 1994.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the music event, banned Russia from the 2022 competition following its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
In February, the EBU organisers initially said they had no plans to prevent Russia from taking part, then swiftly backtracked and banned the country from competing.
“The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” it said in a statement at the time.
“We remain dedicated to protecting the values of a cultural competition which promotes international exchange and understanding, brings audiences together, celebrates diversity through music and unites Europe on one stage,” said the EBU.
Russia was originally set to perform in the second half of the first semi-final on 10 May 2022, and they did not announce its act for this year. Last year, Russia’s Manizha placed 9th place with her song “Russian Woman”.
In recent years, Russia had finished with five Top 5 finishes in the past decade, and took home the trophy in 2008 with Dima Bilan singing “Believe”.
After Russia’s exit, a total of 40 countries will compete in the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy this week.
Ukraine has selected the rap trio Kalush Orchestra to compete. Their song “Stefania” – a track that blends hip hop and traditional Ukrainian music – was written as a tribute to their mothers. Fronted by Kyiv rapper, Oleh Psiuk, the Kalush Orchestra also consists of multi-instrumentalist Ihor Didenchuk and dancer Vlad Kurochka.
Alina Pash was originally chosen through a televised national selection show and was due to sing her song, “Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors”. However, she withdrew after facing scrutiny over a reported 2015 visit to Russia-occupied Crimea.
People who enter Crimea through Russia are considered by Ukraine to have illegally crossed the border, although there is no suggestion that Pash did this.
Kalush Orchestra were granted special permission to leave Ukraine to travel to the contest in Italy, after nearly all men under the age of 65 are required to stay in the country in case they are needed to fight Russian soldiers.
“Some people are saying we could win because of the war, but our song was among the five favourites before the start of the conflict, which means people like it regardless,” said leading man Psiuk in an interview with the Italian news agency Ansa.
It is predicted that the group will be successful in the semi-finals, given that “Stefania” is currently the most-viewed Eurovision entry on YouTube among the 40 contenders.
The Eurovision semi-finals take place on 10 and 12 May, while the grand final is on Saturday 14 May.