Hours before the final of the 67th Eurovision Song Contest, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) came under fire for rejecting a request by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to deliver a message during the event.

The EBU explained that it did not accept the Ukrainian president’s request because it does not want to give the song contest a political character.

“Mr. Zelensky’s request to address the audience of the Eurovision Song Contest, despite his laudable intentions, unfortunately cannot be accepted as it would violate the rules of the event,” says a relevant press release.

The disappointment of Downing Street was expressed by a representative of the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who underlined that the people and the president of Ukraine are defending fundamental values ​​and freedoms. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson strongly criticized the EBU’s decision, recalling that “the only reason the competition is not being hosted in Ukraine is Putin’s illegal war”.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Britain, Vadim Prystaiko, however, expressed his “understanding” of the EBU’s decision, noting that “it would be great if President Zelensky could address such a large audience.”

The EBU has announced that the final of this year’s song contest will feature a big tribute to Ukraine, with 11 Ukrainian artists on stage, including Kalush Orchestra, last year’s winner.