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UKRAINE

Eurovision bans Russia from song contest over invasion of Ukraine

Russian acts will not be allowed to compete in this year's Eurovision Song Contest, the European Broadcasting Union has announced.

Eurovision bans Russia from song contest over invasion of Ukraine

The EBU, which broadcasts the event, stated on Friday that Russia’s inclusion in this year’s song contest “would bring the competition into disrepute”.

The broadcaster’s board made the decision to ban Russia from the competition “in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine” and after reviewing the rules and values of the event.

Russia’s exclusion from the music show comes after its prime minister Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine on Thursday.

Since then, EU leaders have imposed sanctions against Russia, with further rounds expected to follow, while major sporting events have also been cancelled in the country.

READ ALSO: OPINION: This is Russia’s war, but we Europeans need to learn fast from our mistakes

In explaining their decision, organisers said Eurovision “promotes international exchange and understanding, brings audiences together, celebrates diversity through music and unites Europe on one stage”.

Russia’s removal from the event marked a U-turn for members of the board, who had previously remained impartial on the matter due to the apolitical nature of Eurovision.

Just one day before, the EBU said that the contest was a “non-political cultural event” and that they were intending to host participants from Russia, but their initial statement seems to have since been removed from its site.

Italy’s Maneskin, the 2021 winners, performs during the final of the 65th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, at the Ahoy convention centre in Rotterdam, on May 22, 2021. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

However, as pressure mounted from other broadcasters, the EBU responded with the ban on Russian entries.

Finland’s public broadcaster Yle said on Friday that it was “pleading” with the EBU not to allow Russia to participate.

“Yle will not send a participant to the Eurovision Song Contest if Russia can participate in the competition,” it said in a statement.

Other public broadcasters in Ukraine, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Norway also called on the EBU to ban Russia from the event.

The chairman of Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne, Mykola Chernotytsky, said in an open letter to the EBU that “Russia’s participation as an aggressor and violator of international law in this year’s Eurovision undermines the very idea of the competition.”

This year marks the 66th edition of Eurovision and is due to take place in Turin, Italy, after Italian rock band Måneskin won the singing competition last year.

READ ALSO: Turin chosen to host Eurovision Song Contest in 2022

The last time Russia took the title was in in 2008 with Dima Bilan singing ‘Believe’, although it has recently been on of Eurovision’s best performing acts, placing in the top five over the past ten years.

Crimean Tatar singer Susana Jamaladinova known as Jamala won Eurovision for Ukraine in 2016. (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV / AFP)
 

Russia was favourite to win in 2016, but Crimean Tatar singer Susana Jamaladinova of Ukraine, known as Jamala, snatched the title in a surprise victory with her song about Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s deportation of hundreds of thousands of this group of people.

For 2022’s event, Ukraine’s entry is hip-hop trio Kalush Orchestra, whose song ‘Stefania’ marks a tribute to the band members’ mothers.

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ENERGY

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy's government has repeatedly said it plans to end its dependence on Russia for gas supplies following the invasion of Ukraine. But as the timeline keeps changing, when and how could this happen?

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian gas, but has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as part of an effort to end this reliance in the coming years.

But it remains unclear whether Italy can really end its dependence on Russia for its gas supply – or when this might be feasible.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s Algerian gas deal mean for energy supplies?

The government has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including with a recent deal to boost supplies from Algeria.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

“Government estimates indicate that we can make ourselves independent from Russian gas in the second half of 2024,” Draghi told the Senate, while adding that the “first effects” of this plan would be felt by the end of this year.

He said his government was also seeking to boost its production of renewable energy, including by “destroying bureaucratic barriers” to investment, saying it was the “only way” to free Italy from having to import fossil fuels.

Explained: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

In April, Italy‘s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani estimated the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months, following an earlier prediction that it could take until 2025.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest users and importers of natural gas, importing 90 percent of its gas supply with 45 percent of that coming from Russia – up from 27 percent ten years ago.

Italy now imports 29 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year, which Cingolani said in March “must be replaced” – but he didn’t specify with what.

Analysts have said there are “a lot of questions” about how helpful Italy’s gas deal with Algeria will be.

Despite its vast natural gas reserves, Algeria is already exporting at close to full capacity.

Draghi repeated his strong support for EU sanctions on Moscow last week, including a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil, although this is currently being blocked by Hungary.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure on Russia through sanctions, because we must bring Moscow to the negotiating table,” he said.

But for now, Italian energy giant Eni says it plans to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, meeting a demand from Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear whether the plan would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

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