Cher will not visit Russia for the Winter Olympic Games because of its new anti-gay crackdown.

The star who has long campaigned for gay rights had planned to attend the major sporting event next year, but has decided against it after new laws were passed which make life difficult for gay people in the country.

She told Attitude magazine: ''I have so many Russian friends and I wanted to go to the Olympics and now I can't. I don't understand it. The first time I went to Russia everything was fine and then this just exploded.

''My friend Oleg said, 'This is so strange because it's truly not the way the people feel out there. They are afraid over there.' ''

Cher was invited to be a representative of the US at the event but will now instead stay at home.

She added: ''I thought, 'That would be so cool'. But you just can't reward that behaviour.''

Pop legend Cher - whose daughter Chastity came out as a lesbian before having gender reassignment surgery, to become Chas - has become a gay icon for her positive attitude towards same-sex relationships.