BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A veteran Russian singer who voiced support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea has been subjected to EU sanctions in a new blacklist published by the European Union on Monday.
Moscow said the EU had “contradict(ed) common sense” by imposing new sanctions one day after the start of a ceasefire in the conflict between Kiev and Russian-backed rebels.
Iosif, or Joseph, Kobzon, 77, is the best known name on the list that imposes asset freezes and travel bans on 19 people and nine organisations, including two Russian deputy defence ministers.
They join scores of Russians and Ukrainians already under EU sanctions that also hit Russia’s defence, energy and finance sectors.
Kobzon, sometimes considered Russia’s answer to Frank Sinatra, is also a long-time member of parliament and was added to the sanctions list because he had “visited the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and during his visit made statements supporting separatists,” according to the EU’s Official Journal.
Kobzon was born in Donetsk, the centre of the rebellion against Kiev’s rule, when it was part of the Soviet Union.
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 recognised 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.”
“Joseph, sing, please carry on singing!” she said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would respond “adequately” to the new sanctions.
Despite a ceasefire that was negotiated by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France coming into force on Sunday, there was heavy shelling on a government-held town in east Ukraine on Monday and a Kiev military source said four Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 21 wounded.
Also on the new sanctions list were Russian First Deputy Defence Minister Arkady Bakhin and Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov, for supporting the deployment of Russian troops to Ukraine, and Andrei Kartapolov, deputy chief of the general staff, for shaping the Russian military campaign, the EU said.
Russia denies it has soldiers operating in eastern Ukraine.
Additional reporting by Tim Heritage and Alexander Winning in Moscow; Editing by Robin Pomeroy