Nul points? Russian Eurovision song stirs criticism
With less than months to go until the kitsch extravaganza that is Eurovision, some Russians got hot under the collar at the choice to represent Russia -- Ukrainian singer Anastasia Prikhodko, performing her love song "Mamo" partly in her native tongue.
Moscow -- Blending Ukrainian and Georgian features, the Eurovision Song contest entry of host-country Russia this year is a model of political correctness -- but has been slammed by critics at home.
With less than two months to go until the kitsch extravaganza that is Eurovision, some Russians got hot under the collar at the choice to represent Russia -- Ukrainian singer Anastasia Prikhodko, performing her love song "Mamo" partly in her native tongue.
The angry reaction was a reminder that while many Europeans poke fun at the annual event, it is no laughing matter in parts of eastern Europe and can attract high-level government attention.
Not only is the chorus of "Mamo" in Ukrainian, but the song, which Prikhodko performed partly kneeling on the floor, slamming the stage with emotion, comes from a multi-national production team many of whose members are from states at odds with Russia.
"A song performed in Ukrainian can't have anything to do with Russia," thundered Yusif Prigozhin, the embittered producer for the act placed second by the Moscow jury at this weekend's selection, a seasoned blonde songster known as Valeriya.
"Why don't we then invite Dynamo Kiev to play for Russia," he told the online news site Svobodnaya Pressa, referring to the famous Ukrainian football club.
He was quick to point out that Prikhodko, 21, had already been disqualified as an entrant for her native Ukraine because her song in that country's contest was too long and not newly composed.
Reaction from Russian pop fans on an array of websites was no less cutting, with a comment on the official Eurovision site referring to Prikhodko as a "gastarbeiter," the German term for migrant labourer.
But Prikhodko and team reacted calmly, calling the choice "correct and timely".
"This is a very international song as the music was written by a Georgian, sung by a Ukrainian and half the text was written by an Estonian," Prikhodko's Georgian-born producer Konstantin Meladze told RIA Novosti.
And in that comment may lie a clue as to why this weekend's jury made the choice it did.
Russia's multicultural entry may be just what's needed to wrong-foot neighbouring states ill-disposed towards Moscow and possibly planning to use the May 14-16 event to humiliate their Soviet-era master.
Ahead of the event, pitfalls have appeared for Russia, most notably the entry by its neighbour and foe Georgia, which is a thinly veiled attack on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Georgia's song, fuelled by anger at last year's war between the two countries, is entitled "We Don't Wanna Put In" -- a play on the Russian premier's surname.
On Monday Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, stressed he was against politicising the event and that Eurovision was a "very good privilege" for the host country "to show off its beautiful capital".
Helping to give the event a boost will be France's world-renowned entry Patricia Kaas -- who is well-loved in Russia -- though this is something of an oddity for a contest that usually features young unknowns.
Putin himself has also been studiously non-political while taking an interest in the event, prompting surprise in December when he told the hit musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber he would vote for Britain rather than Russia.
By staging a part-Ukrainian, part-Georgian, part-Estonian entrant, Russia has the best chance of preventing the showcase contest being hijacked -- and may even pick up a few extra votes, says Boris Kagarlitsky, an analyst with the Institute of Globalisation and Social Movements.
The message is "Look! We're nice and gentle and politically correct," said Kagarlitsky.