LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — This weekend’s event Eurovision singing contest It will have Ukrainian flags, Ukrainian musicians and Ukrainian fans, but not the country’s wartime leader.

Organizers turned down a request by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to make a video address to the final of the pan-continental music competition on Saturday. He was expected to urge the world to continue its support for Ukraine’s fight to repel the Russian invasion.

The European Broadcasting Union, which runs Eurovision, said allowing Zelenskyy to participate would violate “the apolitical nature of the event.”

Zelenskyy’s request “to address the audience at the Eurovision Song Contest, although made with laudable intentions, unfortunately cannot be granted by the management of the European Broadcasting Union, as it would go against the rules of the event,” the organization said.

Founded in 1956 to help heal a war-torn continent, Eurovision strives to keep pop and politics separate. Overtly political letters, signs and symbols are prohibited.

But politics cannot be completely excluded. Russia was excluded from the contest after it invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Belarus had been expelled the previous year over its government’s crackdown on dissent.

Last year’s contest was won by Ukraine, with the UK stepping in as host on their behalf.

Acts from 26 countries will compete in Saturday’s live final at the Liverpool Arena, which will be co-hosted by Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina. It will feature last year’s Eurovision winner, the Kalush Orchestra, and other Ukrainian artists, with footage from Ukraine shown before each performance.

“We believe that this is the best way to reflect and celebrate Ukraine’s victory in the Eurovision Song Contest and show that we are united by music during these difficult times,” the broadcasting union said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *