American pop star Cher has said she turned down the chance to appear live in Russia at the Sochi Olympics in protest at the country’s new homophobic laws.

Speaking to Canadian magazine Maclean’s, she said: ‘I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show. I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does.’

She continued that she and her late husband and singing partner Sonny had had trouble from others, simply because they looked different: ‘People hated Sonny and I in the early days because we looked and acted so different. Sonny was always getting into fights – people would call him “fag” and he’d get his nose broken — only because we were dressing different. And these were our street clothes! You can’t forget that. We tried getting on TV but the backlash against the networks was so bad, they wouldn’t invite us back.’

She went on to describe her fabulously camp songs ‘Take It Like A Man’ and ‘Dressed to Kill’ as ‘a drag queen’s wet dream.’

Cher’s latest full length album, Closer to the Truth, is out on 24 September, more than 10 years after her last full length release. It will be her 26th album.