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Did Putin call Elton to discuss gay rights in Russia?
Wednesday, September 16 2015

It was a story that seemed almost too good to be true. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, celebrated for his macho bravura, and Elton John coming together in a phone conversation that the singer said had been initiated by the Kremlin.

"Thank-you to President Vladimir Putin for reaching out and speaking via telephone with me today," Elton wrote in an Instagram post on September 14, 2015, that went largely unnoticed for a day. "I look to forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia."

Once discovered, the Instagram post went viral. Many news organisations, including The New York Times, reported Elton's account. The only problem is that, according to the Kremlin, the phone call never happened. Putin's press secretary, Dmitri S. Peskov, said late on September 15, 2015 that Mr Putin had never spoken to Elton.

"This does not correspond to reality. There was no conversation," Mr Peskov told journalists. He also said his office could not be sure the Instagram post was actually Elton John's. But, he said Mr Putin was open to discussion about everything and he that he did not doubt the president would be willing to speak with the singer.

There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in the accounts, though some have speculated Elton was the victim of a prank call. Elton was not available for comment.

The putative conversation, which was confirmed on September 15, 2015 by a spokesman for Elton, evidently stemmed from a BBC interview over the weekend in which the singer spoke about music's power to encourage tolerance. Elton was in Ukraine recently and met its president, Petro Poroshenko, to discuss gay rights.

In the interview, Elton said of Mr Putin, "I'd love to sit down with him and talk to him." He added, "The world faces much bigger problems than gay people." After the interview was published, Mr Peskov said there was no meeting planned. "Taking into account that there are many insinuations of late, we regard such information with extreme caution," he said. But days later, the Instagram post about the reported phone call proved irresistible.

In recent years, Russia has drawn criticism from human rights groups for enacting legislation against "gay propaganda" and restricting the activities of gay rights organisations. Mr Putin himself, while distancing himself from any blatantly anti-gay activities, has promoted an agenda of traditional values and religion, while criticising Western "decadence."

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  • Vladimir Putin actually calls Elton to talk about gay rights
        Tuesday, September 15 2015 at 09:21:25

  • Elton John: I want to meet Putin over gay rights
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