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Azerbaijan queries ‘nul points’ snub for Russia

The head of Azerbaijan’s state broadcaster has questioned the vote tally in Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest where it embarrassingly gave “nul points” to the entry from neighbouring Russia, claiming votes for Russia were apparently not taken into account.

“It is of serious concern and surprise that at the final count of votes from Azerbaijan, Russia was not given any points,” director Camil Guliyev said in a statement on Monday.

In fact, Russia’s entry by singer Dina Garipova received the second highest number of votes submitted via cell phone text messages and high marks from the country’s professional jury, he claimed, hinting at vote violations.

“We sincerely hope that this incident, possibly initiated by certain interest groups, will not cast a shadow over the brotherly relations of the Russian and Azerbaijani peoples,” he said, without blaming anyone specifically.

Russia, which has a large Azerbaijani diaspora, gave the maximum 12 points to Azerbaijan’s entry, a schmaltzy ballad from crooner Farid Mammadov, which eventually came second behind Danish winner Emmelie de Forest.

Garipova, who was chosen to represent Russia at the glitzy event in Sweden after winning a national talent show, finished in fifth position.

Once known for politicised voting, Eurovision has sparked its fair share of boycotts, bitterness and international backbiting.

Last year Azerbaijan — which was hosting the event — squabbled with neighbouring Iran after Tehran alleged the country was hosting a gay pride event under the cover of the contest.

That spat came after Azerbaijan’s arch-foe Armenia decided not to participate in the competition.

Relations between oil-rich Azerbaijan and Russia have cooled in recent times with strongman President Ilham Aliyev determined to turn the former Soviet state into an alternative gas supplier for Europe.