Sanctioned Russian singer Kobzon, dubbed Russia's Sinatra, dies aged 80

FILE PHOTO: Soviet crooner Iosif Kobzon of Russia performs as an invited guest during the opening show of the New Wave international song contest in Jurmala, Latvia July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - 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.

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

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.

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 Syria in 2016.

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.”

Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Richard Balmforth