Rishi Sunak has said he is “disappointed” Ukraine’s President has been blocked from addressing Eurovision’s grand final tonight.
The European Broadcasting Union, a group of 100 broadcasters including the BBC that oversees the competition, turned down a request from Volodymyr Zelensky to make a surprise video appearance.
The EBU said they were concerned that it would risk “politicising” the show.
Mr Sunak’s spokesperson said “We are disappointed. The values and freedoms that President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine are fighting for are not political, they’re fundamental, and Eurovision themselves recognized that last year when they rightly suspended Russia’s participation.”
Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky thanked the UK for hosting Eurovision and for the donation of Storm Shadow long-range precision missiles in a phone conversation with Mr Sunak today.
READ MORE: Zelensky says Eurovision should not have been held in UK
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “President Zelensky thanked the Prime Minister for Liverpool’s role in hosting tomorrow’s Eurovision Song Contest on behalf of Ukraine. The Prime Minister said he was proud the UK could do this for the Ukrainian people.”
Claire McColgan, director of Culture Liverpool and organizer of Eurovision, told Times Radio: “It would be fantastic to have a message from Zelensky, especially for the people from Ukraine who have come here, wishing it was at home.”
Labor and Conservative MPs rounded on the decision, too. Labour’s Kevin Brennan said it was a “bizarre move”, and former Tory culture secretary Karren Bradley called it “petty”.
The EBU said: “No fewer than 11 Ukrainian artists will be performing. Additionally 37 locations in Ukraine will feature in short film postcards.”