Organizers of the Eurovision Song Contest reversed course on Friday, announcing that Russia would no longer be allowed to perform in this year’s event.
“The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute,” the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said in a statement.
The decision to punish Russia culturally for invading Ukraine comes a day after the same group had said Moscow would be allowed to send an act to appear at the next Eurovision, scheduled to be held in Turin, Italy, in May.
Ukraine’s public broadcasting company had asked for Russia to be suspended from the popular contest, which it is watched by almost 200 million people each year.
But the EBU, which has organized the contest since 1956, had insisted Eurovision was “a non-political cultural event.”
In response, a number of other European countries indicated they would not participate in this year’s event unless Russia was banned.
Russia was yet to formally announce an act for this year’s competition. Since the attack on Ukraine, thousands of Russians have braved the risk of being arrested to protest against their government’s deadly invasion.