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Belarus blasts Eurovision ban as ‘politically motivated’

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Law enforcement officers patrol the street in Minsk, on March 25, 2021. – Scattered groups of protesters in Belarus on March 25 tried to breathe life into a movement against President Alexander Lukashenko that fizzled out in the face of a severe crackdown. March 25 has long been a traditional day of demonstration for the opposition, marking the anniversary of the 1918 declaration of the first short-lived independent Belarusian state. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Belarus has been rejected from participating in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands, with Minsk denouncing the decision as “politically motivated.”

The European Broadcasting Union said late Friday that “regrettably, Belarus will not be participating” in the May contest in the Dutch city of Rotterdam even after it had submitted a new entry following problems with the original.

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“It was concluded that the new submission was also in breach of the rules of the competition that ensure the Contest is not instrumentalized or brought into disrepute,” the EBU said in a statement on its website, without elaborating.

The group selected to represent Belarus, Galasy Zmesta, offered a first song titled “I Will Teach You,” which had prompted a backlash from the Belarus opposition for featuring lyrics like “I will teach you to toe the line”.

Belarus has been gripped by political unrest since last August after its strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth presidential term in a vote the opposition and Western diplomats said was rigged.

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The election results triggered mass street protests which were met with a violent crackdown that resulted in thousands of protesters detained, at least several protesters killed, and hundreds sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

The European Union then imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies.

While Galasy Zmesta’s second song was more nuanced, the group’s leader was cited as saying by RIA Novosti early Saturday morning that the meaning of its fable about a bunny rabbit, domestic chickens, and a fox “is very obvious”.

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This came after Belarus’s national broadcaster slammed Eurovision on its Telegram channel late Friday.

“For Europe to be scared to allow a song on stage about rabbits — this is the final and absolute disgrace,” it wrote.

“The decision to disqualify us is politically motivated,” Ivan Eismont, who heads the ex-Soviet country’s Eurovision selection committee, was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

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“We know what the European Union loves,” he said.

Efforts are being made to make sure as many artists as possible can perform live for Eurovision, which is due to have it’s final on May 22.

The glitzy annual musical pageant, which has millions of viewers in Europe and as far afield as Australia, has already been postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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