It's going to be a tense showdown between Ukraine and Russia – not a military conflict fought with guns and tanks in eastern Ukraine, but the finals of this year's Eurovision Song Contest.
On the evening of May 6, both Ukraine and Russia made it through the qualifying rounds held in Copenhagen to the final round that will be held on Saturday, May 10.
In the first semifinal, 16 countries performed and were whittled down to ten based on the audience voting. In what was an emotionally charged atmosphere, the artists from both Russia and Ukraine shied away from songs with any political content whatsoever.
The doe-eyed Russian twin sisters, the Tolmachevy Sisters, trotted out a suitably schlocky song entitled "Shine", while Mariya Yaremchuk, herself the daughter of a famous Ukrainian folk singer, sang "Tick-Tock".
But it was impossible to keep politics totally out of the 59th year of the competition. When the Russian entry was voted through to the final, the twins were greeted with boos from the crowd. The situation in Crimea has caused a headache for Eurovision vote counters, who, like Olympic judges, strive to maintain complete neutrality and judge the entries on merit alone (if that makes sense when talking about the Eurovision Song Contest). The judges were left unsure whether to count the votes called in from Denmark – last year's winner and this year's host - because of their clear political tinge.
However, politics might intervene in the final anyway. The winner of the Eurovision is chosen by viewer voting, who send texts into the organisers which count the votes. With the situation in Ukraine deteriorating by the day, it is possible that full-scale fighting might have broken out by the weekend and the telecommunications system could collapse or be switched off, making it impossible for Ukrainians to vote for their national act.
Eurovision has special significance for Ukraine. Ruslana, the winner of the 2004 competition with her song "Wild Dances", has emerged as one of the leading lights of the recent pro-EU Maidan demonstrations in Kyiv. During the tensest moments, she lifted the crowds' morale by getting up on the stage on Independence Square and belting out the national anthem over and over again, well into the small hours.
"Not Alone" sung by Armenia's Aram MP3 is currently the bookies favourite to win the competition.
Other countries through to the final are:
Armenia: Not Alone sung by Aram MP3
Sweden: Undo sung by Sanna Nielsen
Iceland: No Prejudice sung by Pollapönk
Azerbaijan: Start A Fire sung by Dilara Kazimova
San Marino: Maybe (Forse) sung by Valentina Monetta
Netherlands: Calm After The Storm sung by The Common Linnets
Montenegro: Moj Svijet sung by Sergej ?etkovi?
Hungary: Running sung by András Kállay-Saunders
The second semi-final will be held on May 8, with the grand final on May 10.
More details and timings are on the competition's official page.
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