'Soviet Sinatra' Iosif Kobzon dies at 80

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) pins an award on singer and politician Iosif Kobzon who has died aged 80

Popular Russian singer and pro-Kremlin lawmaker Iosif Kobzon -- sometimes called "the Soviet Frank Sinatra" -- died aged 80 on Thursday.

Born in Ukraine's Donbass region to Jewish parents, Kobzon began his career in 1959 and was most popular in the 1970s and 80s.

No major concert on Russian national holidays would take place without Kobzon, who also performed for Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan in the 1980s and for Russian troops in Syria in 2016.

President Vladimir Putin sent a message of condolences to Kobzon's family, the Kremlin said.

The artist was a strong supporter of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and was targeted by EU sanctions in 2015 for performing in separatist eastern Ukraine.

Kiev also blacklisted Kobzon for his stance on the conflict.

A former member of the Soviet Communist Party, Kobzon served as an MP for the ruling United Russia party since 2003.

Like Sinatra, he had long been dogged with rumours of links to organised crime, although he said he simply met shady figures through his singing.

The United State repeatedly refused him visas.

"His voice was heard from every window, you could not celebrate a single New Year's Eve without him," said an obituary on state-owned Vesti.ru.