MOSCOW: Russian lawmakers on Sunday lashed out at arch-rival Ukraine’s “political” victory in the Eurovision song contest, as pro-Kremlin media insisted Moscow’s entrant was robbed.
Ukrainian performer Jamala won the glitzy contest Saturday with her ballad “1944” about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Soviet authorities during World War II in a performance widely seen as a swipe at Moscow over its annexation of the peninsula in 2014.
Russian singer Sergei Lazarev — the clear favorite with bookmakers before the contest — was beaten into third place after losing out on the national jury tallies despite claiming the most points from viewers in the public vote.
“It was not the Ukrainian singer Jamala and her song 1944 that won the Eurovision 2016, it was politics that beat art,” senator Frants Klintsevich told local news agencies, calling for Russia to possibly skip next year’s tournament in Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter feud since Moscow annexed Crimea in Feb. 2014 and was then accused of fueling a bloody separatist uprising in the east of the country.
The crisis in Ukraine has pushed ties between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
The head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper chamber Konstantin Kochachev insisted that “according to the tally of points it was geopolitics that gained the upper hand.”
Kochachev said that the Eurovision victory could embolden Ukraine’s pro-Western leadership and see an already stuttering peace process to end the conflict in the east jeopardized even further.
“For that reason Ukraine lost. And not only its long-suffering budget,” he wrote on Facebook. “The thing the country needs now as much as air is peace. But war won.”
Russian state television had played down the themes of Ukraine’s winning song prior to the victory announcement but on Sunday slammed the choice as political.
“The viewers picked Russia to win, the experts chose Australia but in the end Ukraine won first place,” a female news anchor on Pervy Kanal said as she introduced the segment.
Mass-circulation tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda ran an online article entitled “How the European jury stole victory from Lazarev.”
The outlet called for the results to be reviewed because of the “political” content of Jamala’s song and warned gay spectators they face a rough reception in Ukraine next year.
“It became obvious that this is an entirely political story — as we won first place in the public vote that was meant to counterbalance the juries.”
In Ukraine Jamala’s victory had already sparked jubilation at the highest levels and no small satisfaction at besting Russia.
“Yes!!!” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tweeted. “An unbelievable performance and victory! All of Ukraine gives you its heartfelt thanks, Jamala.”
“Any victory for Ukraine is going to annoy the Kremlin,” Ganna Gopko, the head of international affairs committee in Ukraine’s parliament, told Agence France-Presse. “This is not just a victory at Eurovision, it a victory of values.”
The mood among some Crimean Tatars was even more politically charged.
A businessman who last year helped organize blockades of traffic between mainland Ukraine and Crimea as a sign of protest over the annexation said Jamala’s victory spelled a personal defeat to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“This is our first, thumping victory over Putin’s Russia,” Lenur Islyamov wrote on Facebook. “Crimean Tatars are not only (Ukraine’s) key to Crimea, but also to Europe itself.”