Lukashenko says Belarus may submit new Eurovision entry after backlash

FILE PHOTO: Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting with members of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) in Minsk, Belarus February 26, 2021. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS

KYIV (Reuters) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Saturday that Belarus may submit a new entry to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest after the previous one, by a band known for mocking anti-government protests, was rejected as too political.

Featuring lyrics such as “I will teach you to toe the line”, the entry had sparked a backlash from opposition figures and fuelled calls by a European Parliament lawmaker for Belarus to be suspended from the popular competition.

Eurovision’s organisers, the European Broadcasting Union, on Thursday threatened Belarus with disqualification if it did not submit a modified version of the entry or submit a new song.

To critics, allowing the original entry to be performed would have added legitimacy to a violent crackdown launched by Lukashenko against mass unrest that swept the country following an August election which demonstrators say was rigged to extend his 27-year rule.

To Lukashenko, it was another example of Belarus being besieged by outside forces. The veteran president has clung to power with support from traditional ally Russia and accused the West of fuelling the protests to overthrow him.

“They are starting to press us on all fronts. Even at Eurovision, I see,” Lukashenko said, in his first public comments about the row.

“We’ll make another song,” he said, adding: “You see that this is all politicized.”

He also commented for the first time on a film released this week by a Poland-based opposition news service that accused Lukashenko of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a luxurious lifestyle.

“I will never allow myself to steal something from people,” he said.

Reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Alexandra Hudson