Ukraine’s newly chosen Eurovision act has withdrawn from the competition after claims she travelled illegally to Russia-controlled Crimea in 2015.
Alina Pash faced scrutiny from the Ukrainian national broadcaster for a trip she was said to have made seven years ago.
Russia seized control of the peninsula in 2014, with travel to the area – while discouraged for Ukrainians – only allowed through official checkpoints in Ukraine.
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Pash had provided official documentation that proves that she did not enter Crimea via Russia, which is illegal under Ukrainian law, and authorities had attempted to verify it with border officials.
Writing on Instagram, Pash said in Ukrainian: “I am a citizen of Ukraine, I follow the laws of Ukraine, I try to bring the traditions and values of Ukraine to the world.
“What this story turned out to be is not at all what I put into my song.
“I am an artist, not a politician. I do not have an army of PR people, managers, lawyers to resist all these attacks and pressures.”
She continues: “I don’t want to be in this dirty story anymore. With a heavy heart I withdraw my candidacy as the representative of Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest. I am really sorry.”
Her withdrawal comes days after Pash won national selection with her track Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, said to be about the country’s history.
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Eurovision takes place in Turin, Italy, this year after alt-rockers Maneskin won last year with their track Zitti E Buoni, and will be hosted by British-Lebanese pop singer Mika.
Tensions in eastern Europe remain tight, with Vladimir Putin in talks with Western leaders over his deployment of troops to the Ukrainian border.
Despite claims from the Russian leader that troops are being sent home, NATO believes more have actually been deployed and fears of an imminent invasion remain high.
Russia is seeking demands from the West to prevent Ukraine, its neighbour, from joining NATO.