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Ukraine bars several Russian journalists entry for Eurovision

May 7, 2017

Ukrainian officials on Sunday said they had blocked several Russian journalists who visited the annexed Crimea peninsula from entering the country to cover the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev.

Border service spokesman Oleg Slobodyan said two unnamed Russian journalists were on Sunday “not allowed across the frontier and banned from entering Ukraine for three years” over visits they made to the Crimea region seized by Moscow.

“The state border service notes that having accreditation for Eurovision does not give you the right to cross the border,” Slobodyan wrote on Facebook.

Officials said on Saturday they had also banned a Russian state news agency photographer from entering the country for the same reason.

This year’s glitzy Eurovision contest — which culminates in the final on May 13 — has been overshadowed by a dispute between foes Ukraine and Russia after Kiev banned Moscow’s entrant over a concert she held in Crimea.

The spat saw Russia eventually turfed out of the competition after the country’s state television refused to broadcast the event in protest.

The former Soviet neighbours have been locked in a deep feud since Moscow snatched the Black Sea Crimea peninsula from Kiev in March 2014 after the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin leader by protestors.

Russia subsequently backed insurgents who have taken over swathes of the east of the country in a bloody conflict that has cost some 10,000 lives.

Ukraine’s pro-Western leader Petro Poroshenko on Sunday said that Eurovision would draw international focus to the country as it struggles to break away from Moscow’s grip.

“The attention of hundreds of million of television viewers from the whole world will during these days be riveted on Ukraine, on our European aspirations, on our fight for freedom and for independence,” Poroshenko said.

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Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.