A Ukrainian singer who was chosen to represent her country at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has pulled out of the event after controversy over her visit to Russia-annexed Crimea, she announced on Wednesday.
Alina Pash, a singer and rapper from western Ukraine, won the selection for Ukraine’s Eurovision contestant last week with the song “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.” Even before she was selected for the competition, she was heavily criticized by Eurovision fans for performing in Crimea in 2015 – a year after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine.
“I don’t want this virtual war and hate. The main war is now an external one that came to my country in 2014,” Pash, 28, wrote on Instagram post. “It is with a heavy heart that I withdraw my candidacy to represent Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest.”
Much of the international community does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and travel to Crimea via Russia is illegal under Ukrainian law.
Pash said she had provided official documents confirming she entered Crimea legally through Ukraine and not Russia, but Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service said it did not have the document in question.
After her Eurovision selection was Pash added to Myrotvorets, a controversial Ukrainian website that released the names of persons believed to be involved in the Donbass conflict or considered dangerous to the national security of Ukraine.
Myrotvorets considered Pash’s visit to Crimea a “deliberate violation of Ukraine’s state border”.
In her Instagram post, Pash said she and her family received threats and their social media accounts were hacked during the controversy.
“I am a citizen of Ukraine, I obey the laws of Ukraine, I try to spread the traditions and values of Ukraine to the world. What became of this story is not at all what I put into my song,” she wrote.
Pash’s withdrawal comes at a time of intense tensions between Russia and Ukraine over Moscow’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and in Crimea.
Eurovision organizers were due to review Pash’s participation in the competition on Friday.
Eurovision 2022 takes place on May 14 in Turin, Italy, after Italian rock band Måneskin won last year’s competition in Rotterdam.