Alina Pash will no longer represent her home country of Ukraine at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, the competition has announced.
On Saturday (February 12) Pash was announced as the winner of Vidbir, the nationally televised selection show that Ukraine uses to find its Eurovision entry, with her song ‘Тіні забутих предків’ (‘Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors’).
Now, however, Ukraine’s national broadcaster UA:PBC has reversed its decision for Pash to be the country’s representative following an investigation into a 2015 trip she made to Crimea, an area Russia seized control of in 2014.
In Ukraine there are strict rules in place on how people should travel to the region. Ukrainians and foreigners are only allowed to travel there through official land checkpoints. It is illegal under Ukrainian law to travel to Crimea via Russia.
A statement released by Eurovision said: “On Wednesday afternoon, in a mutual agreement between the broadcaster, the organising committee of Vidbir and the artist, it was decided that Alina’s participation in the Contest would not go ahead.
“According to the Vidbir rules, UA:PBC can decide on the representative of Ukraine at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, from the field of other finalists that participated in the national selection process on Saturday night.”
Speaking to BBC Newsbeat before she was removed from the contest, Pash defended herself against claims of being ‘un-Ukrainian’.
“I’m a Ukrainian girl. I’m talking in Ukrainian and my song is about Ukraine,” she said. “There is no way that I can be against it.” She claimed she had shared documents with the authorities that proved she entered Crimea legally.
The investigation into Pash’s trip comes amid a tense military stand-off between Russia and Ukraine. The situation between the two countries could change drastically before they both share the Eurovision stage together in Italy this coming May.
Pash has said that she and some of her friends have their bags packed ready in case they need to go on the run. “We need to be ready,” she said, adding that if Russia does invade she’ll be ready to “fight”.
“I believe in my message that we don’t need a war but if they (Russia) are going to push us we’re going to stand together,” she continued. “Artists like myself want to create something good. We want to create light and positive news but we’re living in this reality. We’re going to react. We’re not going to run.”
Eurovision 2022 will take place at the PalaOlimpico in Turin, Italy, with the Grand Final set for May 14.