Volodymyr Zelenskyy blocked from making address at Eurovision - as final qualifiers announced

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been blocked from making an address at the Eurovision Song Contest ahead of the final this weekend.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which produces the contest, said it had declined Mr Zelenskyy's request to address the event's audience on Saturday.

The contest is being held in the UK with the BBC on behalf of Ukraine this year, which saw the war-torn nation triumph in Turin last year following a wave of support from the voting public.

"The Eurovision Song Contest is an international entertainment show and governed by strict rules and principles which have been established since its creation," a statement from EBU said.

"As part of these, one of the cornerstones of the contest is the non-political nature of the event.

"This principle prohibits the possibility of making political or similar statements as part of the contest."

It added that Mr Zelenskyy's request to address the audience at the contest "regrettably cannot be granted as it would be against the rules of the event", despite being made with "laudable intentions".

The EBU also noted that 11 Ukrainian artists, including last year's winners Kalush Orchestra, are set to perform, while 37 locations from around Ukraine will also be shown.

It comes as Poland, Australia and Cyprus have qualified for the final, with 16 countries competing on Thursday night for the 10 remaining spots in Saturday's showdown in Liverpool.

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The countries that managed to win over the voting public also included Albania, Estonia, Belgium and Austria.

Lithuania, Armenia and Slovenia were also voted through.

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Meanwhile, Mr Zelenskyy is reportedly meeting Pope Francis on Saturday at the Vatican, diplomatic sources told Reuters news agency.

The planned trip to Rome, which has not been officially announced, comes just two weeks after the pope said the Vatican was involved in a peace mission to try to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The two leaders have spoken on the phone on several occasions since Russia launched its invasion, the first time less than 48 hours after the war began.

During that call, the pope reportedly expressed his sorrow and solidarity with the country.