Russia's Sinatra gets into politics his way

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The Independent Online
A singer who has been called Russia's Frank Sinatra was elected to parliament yesterday, a few days after he bid farewell to his many fans in a concert televised live nationwide.

Iosif Kobzon will represent a Siberian region in parliament's lower house, Russian news agencies reported, citing officials in the Aginsky Buryat district. He beat five other candidates, but official results were not available.

Kobzon ran for the State Duma in the last general elections, in December 1995, but was not elected. The seat later became available. Kobzon, who said he wanted to "leave the stage gracefully" when he turned 60, celebrated his birthday last week with a final Moscow concert.

For the past eight months he had been on a gruelling farewell tour billed as "I've Given All I've Got to Song," which took him across the former Soviet Union.

Kobzon, who started out as a young soldier singing patriotic Soviet hymns, became one of Russia's richest and most controversial figures. Much like Sinatra, the Russian crooner has been dogged by accusations of having ties to organised crime figures. AP - Moscow