STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 16 (UPI) -- Tensions between Russia and Ukraine were stoked by the victory of a politically charged song by a Ukrainian singer in the annual Eurovision Song Contest.
On Saturday, a Crimean Tatar with the stage name Jamala won the four-day contest held in Stockholm this year. The annual Eurovision contest features original performances by native singers or groups from each of 42 countries. The televised event offers the spectacle and tension of American Idol with the nationalist fervor of the Olympics.
Jamala's song, "1944," was about the mass deportation of Tatars by the Soviet Union from the Crimean Peninsula during World War II. Contest rules prohibit politically incendiary lyrics, but she sang in English and Ukrainian, and her song made no mention of Joseph Stalin nor the Soviet Union, only of the heartbreak of forced exile.
Russia's representative and an early favorite to win, Sergei Lazarev, finished third despite winning the most votes from television audiences. These votes, though, accounted for 50 percent of the participants' final points total, combined with those from the official judges.
The win by a Ukrainian performer also means next year's contest, the 62nd annual event, will take place in Ukraine.
Soon after the results were presented to a worldwide television audience, Ukrainian Parliament member Anton Geraschenko suggested next year's Russian representative should be banned from competition if any support for "Russia's aggression against Ukraine" is voiced. Only those who oppose Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, formerly Ukrainian territory, would be welcome, he added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said all Eurovision Song Contests hosts are obliged to follow the rules, objecting to the proposed "filter" on Russian participants.
"Eurovision is an international contest and the hosting side should follow the Eurovision rules. All the rest is in their competence," Peskov said.
Of the possibility Russia would skip there 2017 competition, Peskov added, "It is early to rattle a sabre."
Immediately after the results were announced, Russian media and politicians decried the victory by the Ukrainian singer. Another Russian singer, Filipp Kirkorov, blamed the new voting procedures for shutting out Russia.
Russian legislator Yelena Drapeko told Russia's Tass news agency the vote was "a result of the propaganda and information war that is being waged against Russia."
"We are talking about the general demonization of Russia, about how everything with us is bad, about how our athletes are all doping, our planes are violating airspace. All of this, of course, shows [in the Eurovision competition]," the Telegraph reported.
Russia has been known to regard the contest as a platform to show Russia's parity with Europe. At the 2009 competition, held in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a rehearsal and said the competition is "of high importance for the country." Russian singers were booed at the 2014 and 2015 contests by audience members protesting the Crimean annexation.