Russia slams Azerbaijan over 'outrageous' Eurovision vote scandal
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Dina Garipova of Russia performs the song "What If" during the final of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest at the Malmo Opera Hall in Malmo May 18, 2013. REUTERS PhotoMoscow reacted angrily on Tuesday as its neighbour Azerbaijan admitted that its vote at the Eurovision Song Contest awarding "nul points" to Russia's song appeared to have been falsified.
The scandal topped the agenda at a televised briefing between the countries' foreign ministers in Moscow, as Azerbaijan's top diplomat admitted that the votes submitted for Russia via cell phone had somehow been omitted from the final tally.
Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov read out a list of votes submitted by the country's three cell phone providers, all of them putting Russia in second place behind Ukraine, which should have meant Azerbaijan gave Russia 10 points.
"Where these votes went, how they disappeared -- this is a question for our state television," he said, calling the case a "detective mystery." "When our contestant is robbed of 10 points, this does not make us happy," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded gravely.
Lavrov said the two sides had agreed that Azerbaijan's state television must first clarify the details of what happened.
Then "we will coordinate our joint actions so that this outrageous act is not left without response," he said.
The 10 points from Azerbaijan would not have changed the ranking of Russia's contestant, who came in a disappointing fifth place, 17 points behind Norway's representative. The Eurovision row took precedence at the briefing over diplomatic issues such as Azerbaijan's territorial dispute with Armenia.
The scandal emerged on Monday when the director of Azerbaijan's state broadcaster of Eurovision, Camil Guliyev, said that both the cell phone votes and the professional jury had given Russia high marks, and called the tally a matter of "serious concern and surprise." For Azerbaijan, it is deeply embarrassing to have handed zero marks to Russia, an important neighbour which it is keen to appease despite tensions over energy and the long-running Nagorny Karabakh dispute.
Russia gave its maximum 12 points to Azerbaijan's Eurovision entry, which came in second place. Oil-rich Azerbaijan hosted last year's Eurovision on a grand scale in Baku with a brand-new sea-front venue and city-wide celebrations, although rights activists held protests to highlight the persecution of political opponents of President Ilham Aliyev.