Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a telephone call to gay pop star Sir Elton John and agreed to meet him. The renowned British singer was tricked last week by pranksters impersonating the Russian strongman.
"Putin … had a talk with Elton John," confirmed Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president's spokesman, on Thursday.
According to Peskov, Putin told John not to be enraged by two pranksters who tricked him last week into believing that the Russian head of state had called.
"Putin called and said 'I know that some guys played a phone prank on you. Don't get offended at them, they're harmless, but of course that doesn't excuse them,'" Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti state news agency.
Elton John did not immediately confirm the phone call on his Instagram account, where he announced the call from Putin last week, which later turned out to be a hoax.
"Thank-you to President Vladimir Putin for reaching out and speaking via telephone with me today," John wrote. "I look forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia."
But the Kremlin immediately denied this: "I am telling you with full authority that President Putin has not talked to Sir Elton John," Peskov said last week.
Peskov did not say whether Putin agreed on discussing the same topic in his real call with the legendary musician.
"Putin said he knows what a popular performer Elton John is, and if their schedules match in the future, he is ready to meet and discuss any questions that interest him," said the spokesman.
In 2013, Russia banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in front of minors. The country has also banned marriage equality, and officials refer to rights efforts as "propaganda." Just this summer, Russia began denying driver's licenses to transgender people, and calls to ban the international LGBT rainbow flag have followed the arrests of marchers in a spring Pride parade.
John, who has two adopted children with his husband, the Canadian filmmaker David Furnish, said he hoped to use his influence to promote tolerance. He performed in the former Soviet Union in 1979 and still regularly graces stages in Russia.
shs/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)