Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has revealed his disappointment in the decision to award this year’s Eurovision Song Contest hosting duties to the UK.
Under normal circumstances the reigning champion nation holds the annual event.
However, after Ukraine was victorious in the 2022 edition in Italy, the European Broadcasting Union decided it would be impossible for the country to hold this year’s offering due to its ongoing war with Russia.
And with Sam Ryder finishing runner-up behind Kalush Orchestra, the honour was bestowed upon the UK, more specifically, Liverpool.
Speaking in capital, Kyiv on Thursday, Mr Zelensky said he had a “lot of respect” for the UK and that it is an “amazing country”, before adding that a neighbouring nation would have been a better option.
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The leader said countries such as Poland and Slovakia would have been more suitable as Ukrainian people “could travel to them easily and be very close”.
In an interview for public service broadcasters, he added: “The main thing is that the contest is taking place. Let the people show their talent.”
In contrast, however, Kalush Orchestra’s Tymofii Muzychuk told the BBC it was a “good” decision to allow the UK to host.
“It’s good that it’s being staged in the UK. We see lots of Ukrainian colours, and the main thing is safety,” he explained.
The singer added that he hopes this year’s competition will prove a reminder to the rest of the world about the ongoing situation in his homeland.
“The war in Ukraine is continuing,” he said. “It’s not finished yet and we want to remind people that they shouldn’t lose track of it and it should be in the headlines.”
The 30-year-old said he’s pinning his hopes on the UK’s Mae Muller coming top of the leaderboard – that way his nation could potentially return the favour next year should the war end.
“Of course we are sad that it’s not being staged in Ukraine but I hope that the UK entry wins, then we can swap and hold Eurovision in Ukraine.”
In further bad news for Mr Zelensky, meanwhile, the 45-year old has been told he is blocked from addressing the globe at the event.
It has been reported the leader’s request to make a video appearance during Saturday’s grand final to an audience of 160 million was turned down by Eurovision Song Contest organisers.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said it was concerned an appearance by the president risks politicising the event.
“The Eurovision Song Contest is an international entertainment show and governed by strict rules and principles which have been established since its creation,” a spokesperson said.
“As part of these, one of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event.”