Alina Pash: Singer won't represent Ukraine at Eurovision

By Steve Holden
Newsbeat music reporter

  • Published
Alina PashImage source, Alina Pash

Alina Pash says she's pulled out of the chance to sing for Ukraine at this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

The 28-year-old had won a TV show to represent her country at the event, but she has withdrawn from the process, with "a heavy heart".

Ukraine's national broadcaster, UA:PBC, said it had decided to "cease her participation".

It had been investigating a 2015 trip she made to Crimea, an area Russia seized control of in 2014.

Alina said some people had attacked her online and called her un-Ukrainian for the visit.

In an Instagram post, she wrote: "I am a Ukrainian citizen. I follow Ukrainian law and try to bring Ukraine's traditions and values into the world.

"What this story has come to is not at all what I tried to convey with my song."

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

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 had 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 was under scrutiny.

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 said "the artist's representative falsified a certificate provided to UA:PBC. The artist agreed with this decision of the organizing committee."

Alina hasn't addressed the Crimea visit in her Instagram post but says some people have made "absolutely unacceptable remarks".

"I do not want this virtual war and hate," she wrote. "The most important war right now is the external one, which came to my country in 2014."

Analysis by Yana Lyushnevskaya, BBC Monitoring, Kyiv

Even as Ukrainians remain preoccupied with the threat of a renewed military conflict with Russia, the story of Alina Pash has been a big story in the media here.

Since she won the selection show on Saturday night, her critics on social media have been saying should not be allowed to represent Ukraine at Eurovision, because of her trip to Crimea.

Yet the singer still gets plenty of support from her fans, many of them writing comments on her Instagram account to say her song deserved to be heard by the Eurovision audience.

Others have directed criticism at the Ukrainian selection committee, claiming it should have checked participants' background in advance to avoid the embarrassment.

Ukraine is no stranger to Eurovision controversy.

This is the second time in recent years that the winner of Ukraine's selection show has failed to actually go to Eurovision.

In 2019, singer Maruv dropped out over disagreements about her plans to tour in Russia.

'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."

There's no word on who will now represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest.

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