Ukraine's Eurovision singer Alina Pash put on hold by broadcaster

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

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Alina PashImage source, Alina Pash

"I'm Alina Pash. The Pash stands for passion."

The 28-year-old Ukrainian singer says she's ready to represent her country at this year's Eurovision in May, after winning a TV competition on Saturday.

Ukraine's national broadcaster UA:PBC has now "suspended" the signing of the agreement for her to be the country's representative at the song contest.

There's currently an investigation into a 2015 trip she made to Crimea, an area Russia seized control of in 2014.

It means her Eurovision journey is on hold as she waits for the outcome.

Image source, Empics
Image caption,
Alina says her "mission" is to "push light"

The row over her Crimean visit comes as the world watches to see if Russia will invade Ukraine.

"We already have so many problems," Alina tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

"The pandemic is one of them and it's still with us. Do we need war on top? Are you serious?"

Who is Alina Pash?

Born in a small village in the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine, Alina rose to fame on her country's version of The X Factor.

She says she's been waiting "eight years" for the chance to represent her country at Eurovision - the world's largest music competition - and won Vidbir, the national selection show.

Her song, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, mixes genres with her aim "to show the world that Ukrainian culture is beautiful".

Despite a potential invasion by Russia, a significant amount of social media chat in Ukraine on Saturday night was about Alina Pash, Eurovision and her fellow competitors.

Why is Alina's 2015 trip to Crimea controversial?

Visiting Crimea can be frowned upon and there are strict rules in place over how people travel to the region.

Ukrainians and foreigners are only allowed to travel there through official land checkpoints. It's illegal under Ukrainian law to travel to Crimea via Russia.

Alina has provided authorities with proof of how she entered the region but that's now being scrutinised.

Image source, Alina Pash
Image caption,
Alina says she's "never been in this kind of situation" before

In a statement to Newsbeat, Ukraine's public broadcaster says it's "expecting the response of the State Border Guard Service" to "confirm the validity of the document".

Alina says some people are claiming she's un-Ukrainian: "I'm a Ukrainian girl. I'm talking in Ukrainian and my song is about Ukraine," she explains.

"There is no way that I can be against it."

'We're not going to run'

The situation between Ukraine and Russia could change drastically before both countries share a stage together in the Italian city of Turin in May.

For the time being, Alina says some of her friends are already in fear and have their bags ready in case they need to go on the run.

Image source, Alina Pash
Image caption,
Alina says right now it's "very hard to stay positive and calm"

"We need to be ready," she says explaining 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.

"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."

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