Miss Grand International, a Thailand-based beauty pageant franchise that campaigns against war and violence, has paired contestants from Russia and Ukraine as roommates amid the ongoing war between the two countries.
All roommate pairings were announced in a live video shared on the pageant’s official Facebook page on Monday. That means Miss Grand Ukraine, Olga Vasyliv, and Miss Grand Russia, Ekaterina Astashenkova, will reside together for what the competition schedule indicates will be weeks of events.
As the war in Ukraine has stretched on for more than seven months, Russia has faced widespread condemnation, sanctions and other attempts to exclude it from economic and diplomatic spheres due to its attack on the neighboring nation. After recently losing some land and cities to Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the eastern Kharkiv region, Russia was dealt its newest high-profile blow over the weekend when Ukraine said it had retaken the city of Lyman.
Lyman is in the eastern Donetsk region, one of four areas that Russian President Vladimir Putin had proclaimed days earlier was now part of Russia in an annexation international leaders have decried as illegitimate and illegal.
The Miss Grand International 2022 schedule shows that contestants were due to arrive in Indonesia, where this year’s competition is taking place, throughout Monday and Tuesday. Pageant-related activities are scheduled to stretch through the end of the month.
“Stop the War and Violence” is a key campaign message of Miss Grand International, according to its website. The theme appears to have been in place even before the Russia-Ukraine war began.
“Miss Grand International is an international beauty pageant that promotes the knowledge and understanding of mankind to campaign to stop war and violence,” the website says. “We’ve tried to be the voice of peace in the world. Each year we try to send out a message to give love and peace to the world through the transmission of speeches from the beautiful top 10 finalists at the Final Show of the Miss Grand International beauty pageant every year and each year when there is a chance, the winner holding the title of Miss Grand International must travel to continue the mission of resistance and stop war and violence in all forms according to our pageant’s ‘Stop the War and Violence’ campaign.”
The message, notably, is featured beside a picture of a person holding Ukraine’s flag.
While Astashenkov’s views on the war in Ukraine were not immediately evident on her social media, Vasyliv has made her thoughts on the conflict clear.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, she expressed her excitement for being able to travel to Indonesia to participate in this year’s competition despite the difficulties the war poses.
“Due to the full-scale invasion of our country we, Ukrainians, lost the opportunity to travel freely around the world,” she wrote, according to an English translation. “It became difficult for us to leave our homeland. Airports are closed, and filming is prohibited at train stations and near all state-important institutions.
“However, despite the obstacles and the three-day journey — I’m going! Indonesia, here I come! I know that it will be an exciting adventure and I will once again show the world our Ukrainian invincibility and beauty.”
In her profile on the Miss Grand International site, Vasyliv wrote that participating in the pageant will give her a chance to showcase “Ukrainian power and beauty,” as well as “our strength and human kindness.”
Newsweek reached out to Miss Grand International and Vasyliv for comment but was not immediately able to pinpoint contact information for Astashenkova.