An Asian beauty pageant is under fire for being “politically insensitive” after its Thailand-based organisers assigned a Ukrainian beauty queen to share a room with her Russian rival for a showpiece event.
Olga Vasyliv was on her way to Indonesia to take part in the Miss Grand International 2022 contest when she found out the news.
In an Instagram post, Vasyliv said her main goal at the competition was to “tell the world about the Ukrainian spirit, the country’s beauty and what we are enduring right now”.
But her enthusiasm turned into “feelings of rage and pain” after she read the letter from the organisers telling her to share a room with Ekaterina Astashenkova.
“My assigned roommate is going to be a competitor from Russia – a terrorist country that has lost all law and order,” Vasyliv wrote on Instagram.
She also tagged the Instagram account of Thai television host and the beauty show’s founder, Nawat Itsaragrisil, saying her “opinion and feelings are important”.
“I am also for peace, love, and friendship, but not for those who I cannot forgive. Not for those who took the lives of so many fellow Ukrainians,” Vasyliv added.
The pageant, started in 2013, has established franchises in dozens of countries and invited winners from those nations to join the Miss Grand International final.
More than 70 contestants have arrived in Indonesia to participate in this year’s final, which will be held on Oct 25 at a convention centre south of Jakarta.
Announcing the roommate pairing for the event this week, organisers said Vasyliv will be paired with Russia’s Astashenkova.
Some netizens sympathised with Vasyliv and criticised Nawat for exploiting the war in Ukraine by deliberately lodging the models in the same room. Others said Vasyliv’s outburst was an attempt to “vilify Russia and its representative”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has cast the months-long conflict as a battle for Moscow’s survival against US and its allies, which he says want to destroy the country and grab its vast natural resources.
ALSO READ: What is life like in Ukraine right now? Inside two very different cities
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.