Just in: A Russian singer is added to EU sanctions list

Just in: A Russian singer is added to EU sanctions list


norman lebrecht

February 16, 2015

The veteran crooner Joseph Kobzon, a popular purveyor of smooch for the past half-century, has been added to the EU sanctions list for his outspoken support for Russian actions against Ukraine, according to the Moscow Times.

Kobzon, 77, is a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament. Raised in a mining town near Donetsk (where a statue was erected to his fame, he was expelled from the  Communist Party in 1983 after singing Jewish songs at a Soviet-Arab friendship concert, causing several delegations to walk out in dismay.

He has used his wealth to found and support orphanages around the country.

Putting him under an EU travel ban is a petty act of bureaucracy that will only convince Russians of the West’s absurdity while more outspoken pro-Putin musicians are still free to roam the world.



  • V.Lind says:

    Is there a source for this information? I would like to know on what grounds he has been sanctioned.

  • MacroV says:

    Mr. Lebrecht is right only because all Duma members and Senators should be added to the sanctions list, because they all voted for the annexation of Crimea and support Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

    But Kobzon has long been, to put it gently, a person of considerable interest to those who follow corruption in Russia.

  • Christy says:

    From the Guardian. There is a difference between musicians like Gergiev who sign letters (although reprehensible) and singers / Duma deputies who actively participated in war.

    Kobzon is a more colourful figure, known in Russia for his long
    Soviet-era career as a singer whose repertoire brought comparisons with Sinatra. Born in Chasiv Yar, in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, Kobzon rose to national prominence during Leonid Brezhnev’s time at the helm of the former Soviet Union, and was a popular act at official concerts. In 1980, he was honoured as “people’s artist of the USSR”.

    Kobzon was the first celebrity to visit Chernobyl after the 1986 nuclear disaster, and was famed for entertaining Russian troops stationed in conflict zones including Afghanistan and Chechnya.

    It was his visit last year in support of separatist fighters in Donetsk, and his appointment as honorary consul of the self-declared Donetsk republic, that earned him the EU’s displeasure. Like Rashkin, he has also been penalised for voting for Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

  • Christy says:

    And more from Reuters:

    He gave a free concert in eastern Ukraine in the run-up to an election of the leader of the rebel regions in November that was not recognized abroad.

    Kobzon said before opening another concert with a patriotic song: “We are strong and people fear us. Let them be afraid.”

    Maria Zakharova, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s press department, said on Facebook that Kobzon was being “punished for his sincere and heartfelt rendition of our beloved ‘Victory Day’ song.”

  • Gonout Backson says:

    I completely agree with Mr Lebrecht: this is absurd and means nothing. Gergiev would have been a much more significant candidate. Even if Kobzon’s recent declarations are pretty ridiculous : “I don’t care for a Ukraine with a fascist government” (Nov. 2014)…

  • V.Lind says:

    Thanks to above posters for background and context. I had not heard of this individual or his recent activities.

    Hard to disagree with Mr. Lebrecht’s point, then: why him and not the Putin cheerleaders?

  • Milka says:

    The EU takes a moral stance where it matters little if at all. It is very easy to take on a pointless third rate apparatchik than to confront the likes of
    Gergiev, Netrebko etc . Mr. Lebrecht is correct -it is absurd as well as cowardly .