Russia's Jewish Frank Sinatra, Kobzon, Dies Aged 80

Veteran Russian singer and pro-Kremlin politician Iosif Kobzon, who was under European Union sanctions for supporting pro-Russian separatists

In this file photo taken on April 30, 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) presents Iosif Kobzon, Russian singer and deputy of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, with the Hero of Labor medal
Photo by SERGEI KARPUKHIN / POOL / AFP

Veteran Russian singer and pro-Kremlin politician Iosif Kobzon, who was under European Union sanctions for supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, died on Thursday. He was 80.

Kobzon was born to Jewish parents in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

The singer, famed for his baritone performances of patriotic and military songs and often labelled Russia's answer to Frank Sinatra, had been undergoing treatment for cancer.

Hava nagila (הבה נגילה) - Iosif Kobzon (2017)

His death on Thursday was confirmed by the lower house of parliament, where he was a deputy and member of the ruling United Russia party.

In 1983, Kobzon was expelled from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and reprimanded for "political short sightedness," after he performed Jewish songs during an international friendship concert, which resulted in the Arab delegations leaving in protest.

Kobzon began his musical career in the ensemble of the Soviet army and frequently performed to troops, including in Afghanistan in the 1980s and at a Russian military base in Syriain 2016.

- (My Way)

A concert he gave in his birthplace of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine during the pro-Russian uprising in the region landed him on an EU blacklist in 2015.

Kobzon opened the concert with the words: "We are strong and people fear us. Let them be afraid."