Eurovision 2021: Belarus banned from contest due to song's 'political' lyrics

Pro-government band Galasy ZMesta breached the competition's 'non-political nature', organisers have ruled

Dmitry Butakov of Belarusian band Galasy ZMesta performs during a concert in Minsk, Belarus December 5, 2020. Picture taken December 5, 2020. BelTA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.
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Belarus has been disqualified from this year's Eurovision Song Contest as its politically fuelled entry was judged to have broken competition rules.

Event organisers asked the eastern European country to submit a new or updated song two weeks ago over concerns the proposed track, by Galasy ZMesta, contravened the contest's "non-political nature".

However, the modified version of Ya Nauchu Tebya (I'll Teach You) was also deemed to breach rules.

"The European Broadcasting Union and the Reference Group, the contest's governing board, carefully scrutinised the new entry to assess its eligibility to compete," said a statement from organisers.

"It was concluded that the new submission was also in breach of the rules of the competition that ensure the contest is not instrumentalised or brought into disrepute."

Belarus has "regrettably" been withdrawn from May's show in Rotterdam, they added.

Galasy ZMesta is known for mocking anti-government protests against President Alexander Lukashenko.

Featuring lyrics such as "I will teach you to toe the line", Ya Nauchu Tebya had sparked backlash from opposition figures.

Galasy ZMesta's song had received 5,800 likes and more than 40,000 dislikes on the competition's official YouTube page since Tuesday, with more than half a million views. It has now been taken down from the site.

The band's frontman, Dmitry Butakov, denied the song breached the competition's rules.

"It is not news for me at all. It was expected, understandable," Butakov told Reuters. "I think our song is compliant. It's them who think it is not."

Belarus witnessed large protests last year over the disputed re-election of leader Lukashenko, who has been in power for 27 years.

Lukashenko himself even weighed in on the row, saying: "They are starting to press us on all fronts. Even at Eurovision, I see. We'll make another song. You see that this is all politicised."

The Eurovision Song Content, which was cancelled last year amid the pandemic, returns to the Netherlands from Wednesday, May 18 to Sunday, May 22. Organisers have assured competitors that measures are in place to ensure the show goes on this year, albeit in limited scale.

- Additional reporting by Reuters