Belarus has been disqualified from taking part in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest after it failed for a second time to submit an entry that complies with the non-political nature of the competition.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), organisers of the event set to take place in the Dutch city of Rotterdam in May, said both songs by the band Galasy ZMesta had been “in breach of the rules of the competition that ensure the Contest is not instrumentalized or brought into disrepute”.
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The EBU said Belarus’s state broadcaster had now missed the deadline to submit an entry that complied with the rules and so would not be participating.
Galasy ZMesta’s first song Ja nauchu tebya (I will teach you) was rejected amid complaints the lyrics mocked the mass protest movement against longtime Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
A new song was submitted after the criticism, but it has now also been shot down by EBU officials.
Belarus criticised the decision, saying the organisers were under pressure by “politicians and haters on social media”.
“The decision to exclude us is politically motivated,” the head of Belarus’s national broadcaster, Ivan Ejsmont, was quoted as saying by state news agency Belta on Saturday.
Belarus has been gripped by political unrest since August after Lukashenko claimed a sixth presidential term in a vote the opposition and Western diplomats said was rigged.
The election results triggered mass street protests which were met with a violent crackdown that resulted in thousands of protesters detained, at least several killed, and hundreds sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
The European Union then imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies.
Efforts are being made to make sure as many artists as possible can perform live for Eurovision, which is due to have its 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.