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Sunak and Starmer slam decision to deny Zelenskiy a Eurovision speech | Eurovision

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have expressed their disapproval of a decision to prevent Volodymyr Zelenskiy from being able to address Eurovision this year.

The prime minister and the Labor leader have united in criticizing the decision to block the Ukrainian president’s request to speak in Saturday night’s grand final. They were joined in their opposition by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Zelenskiy intended to make an unannounced video appearance and was to implore international audiences to continue supporting his country against Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which is producing the event, said Zelenskiy had “laudable” intentions, but rejected the request over fears it would politicize the event.

Sunak said he was “disappointed” by the decision and that the values ​​for which the Ukrainian president was fighting “are not political, they are fundamental”.

On Friday, his official spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister thinks it would be appropriate for President Zelenskiy to address the event and we are disappointed with the decision of the European Broadcasting Union.

“The values ​​and freedoms for which President Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian people are fighting are not political, they are fundamental, and Eurovision itself recognized this last year by rightfully suspending the participation of the Russia in the competition.”

Starmer also waded into the row and agreed with his political counterpart that Zelenskiy should be allowed to speak in the contest.

In a statement, the Labor leader said: “It is vital that we all continue to bear in mind the plight of the Ukrainian people as they resist Russian aggression on behalf of all of us.

“Eurovision is an expression of international unity and freedom, and President Zelenskiy should be able to approach it as a great defender of both.”

Johnson, who was prime minister when Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine, said “it would have been fair” to hear from Zelenskiy in the final.

Liverpool area mayor Steve Rotheram said he would speak to both the Ukrainian ambassador and the mayor of Lviv, who are both in Liverpool for the final, “to discuss what we can do to provide a platform” for Zelenskiy.

In a statement, he said: “For all the fun and frivolity of Eurovision, it is important to remember why this year’s contest is in Liverpool: because of Putin’s murderous war.

“Despite the EBU’s decision to deny President Zelenskiy the opportunity to address the millions who will watch tomorrow’s broadcast [Saturday’s] Ultimately, Liverpool will always try to give a voice to those who promote peace and justice.

A spokesperson for No 10 suggested there were no plans to intervene directly and ask the organizers to change their minds.

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Zelenskiy thanked the UK for hosting the event and expressed his gratitude for the donation of Storm Shadow long-range precision missiles during a conversation with the Prime Minister.

The BBC said this year’s broadcast of the competition is expected to be watched by more than 160 million viewers worldwide.

The 10 countries that qualified in Tuesday’s semi-final were Croatia, Moldova, Switzerland, Finland, Czech Republic, Israel, Portugal, Sweden, Serbia and Norway.

Poland, Australia, Cyprus, Albania, Estonia, Belgium, Austria, Lithuania, Armenia and Slovenia qualified from the second semi-final.

They will join the “big five” countries – the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain – who each get a free pass because of their financial contribution to the event, and the last year’s winners, Ukraine.

Saturday’s Eurovision grand final will be shown live in the UK on BBC One.

  • PA Media contributed to this report

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