The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK has said the final of Eurovision would have been a “great moment” for Volodymyr Zelensky to address a huge audience but he understood the reasons for blocking him.
Vadym Prystaiko spoke as he visited a primary school in Liverpool to see what children had been learning about Ukrainian culture, ahead of the city hosting the song contest on behalf of the war-torn country.
Talking about the decision of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to block Ukraine’s president from speaking at Saturday’s final, he said: “We believe that each and every moment when we have this huge audience of people supporting, that’s the moment when we can remind why, actually, we’re having this great celebration here and that was his point.
“We understand all the internal politics and the unbiased sort of approach to all this, that’s why we don’t have to push too much, but it was a great moment when the president (could) address all these people and remind them this is actually why we’re fighting.
The plans to have it as Ukrainian as possible has actually come to fruition, you can see it yourself
“We also want to have this normal celebration and normal life as people are having here.”
Mr Prystaiko, who watched children at St Nicholas Catholic Academy in Liverpool do some Ukrainian dancing, said the people of Ukraine were happy the UK was hosting.
He said: “The plans to have it as Ukrainian as possible has actually come to fruition, you can see it yourself.
“All of those Ukrainians who are here and those Ukrainians who are watching through the cameras, they are quite happy to see the celebrations.”
But Mr Prystaiko admitted he struggled with some of the regional dialect.
“There are so many coming from all the places, I have trouble understanding the local ones,” he said.
“I believe I know English but with all the crowd here this task is becoming enormous.”
He said he hoped the UK would win the contest this year, so Ukraine could host on its behalf in 2024.
It's good when if you can't host it, your friend could host it
While visiting the school, Mr Prystaiko met pupil Mikhail Kukharchuk, eight, and his mother Mykhailyna, who had come to the country from Kyiv after the Russian invasion.
Ms Kukharchuk said having Eurovision in Liverpool was “amazing”.
“It’s like a piece of your home in the UK, it’s really a very warm feeling,” she said.
“It’s really nice that Liverpool host this Eurovision, that UK host this Eurovision, because Ukraine would like to host it but unfortunately it’s impossible for this moment.
“It’s good when if you can’t host it, your friend could host it.”
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox