This week, Elton John took to social media to announce that he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about gay rights. The singer thanked Putin "for reaching out" to him, adding that he looked forward to further discussions, though according to the Kremlin, the call never happened.
Thus caps a bizarre few days for John, who posted about his phone call with Putin after meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to push for stronger support for the LGBT community. He expressed his desire to speak with Putin about the issue in an interview with the BBC published on Saturday. Russia has come under criticism from activists and human rights groups over recent laws banning "gay propaganda" and the government's broader restrictions on gay rights groups.
"Thank you to President Vladimir Putin for reaching out and speaking via telephone with me today," John said in an Instagram post Monday. "I look to forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia."
The Kremlin disputed John's account on Tuesday, fueling speculation that he may have been the victim of a prank call. "This does not correspond to reality," Dmitri Peskov, Putin's press secretary, told reporters. "There was no conversation." Peskov added that he was sure Putin would be willing to meet with the singer "if there is such a request." John has yet to comment on the matter, though his publicist told the Associated Press that the call did take place.
“I’d love to meet him," John said of Putin in the BBC interview. "I’d love to sit down and talk to him." The singer has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, and publicly criticized Russia's gay propaganda law in 2013.
He added: “At least if I meet him and say, ‘Listen, come on, let’s have a cup of tea, let’s talk about this,’ he might laugh behind my back and then he shuts the door and calls me an absolute idiot, but at least I can have a conscience and say I’d tried."