Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Elton John is ‘mistaken’ about the state of LGBTI rights in Russia.
Putin went on to praise the rock singer as a ‘musical genius’.
Prior to this, John had said he was deeply upset over comments made by Putin, where the Russian leader had said liberal values were ‘obsolete’ and had been rejected by the majority for people in western countries.
The singer also accused Putin of hypocrisy for saying he wanted Russia’s LGBTI population to be happy. Putin’s comments came after gay scenes in the film, Rocketman, a biopic based on John’s life, were censored in Russia.
Russia has been widely condemned for its poor record on LGBTI rights.
In 2013, the country introduced a law which prohibits the sharing of ‘homosexual propaganda’.
The authorities have also clamped down on other forms of LGBTI expression. This includes banning Pride parades from taking place across the country.
‘He is a genius musician’
Putin addressed John comments while attending the G20 summit in Osaka, CNN reports.
‘I have a lot of respect for him, he is a genius musician, we all enjoy his music, but I think he is mistaken,’ the Russian president said.
He also took a swipe at ‘liberal values’, which he claimed impinged on traditional lifestyles.
Putin went on to claim that Russian authorities had a ‘relaxed and unprejudiced’ approach to LGBTI people. However, he added that decisions such as sexual orientation and gender identity should be only be made by adults, and children should be ‘left alone’.
This was a reference to Russia’s controversial ‘gay propaganda’ law which was introduced in 2013. The law purports to protect children from imagery which could be considered as normalizing homosexuality and LGBTI culture in Russia.
Over the past decade, Russia has experienced a sharp decline in LGBTI rights. The country is ranked Europe’s second least LGBT-friendly nation by ILGA-Europe.
The implementation of the ‘gay propaganda’ law in 2013 has also been used to justify various clampdowns on the LGBTI community.
Anti-LGBTI sentiments by the authorities have also been widespread in Russian federal subject, Chechnya.
Chechen authorities have begun a massive clampdown on the local LGBTI community. Numerous LGBTI people in Chechnya have reported being tortured after having been detained by the authorities.
Involved in LGBTI advocacy work
John, who is openly gay, has been involved with LGBTI advocacy work for several decades.
The singer started The Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 following the death of his friend and Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. The charity has raised more than $400 million since it was set up.
Earlier this month, the 72-year-old was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, Legion d’Honneur, by French president Emmanuel Macron.
John is currently on the three-year-long Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour launched in September last year.
For the tour, John is expected to play around 200 shows around the globe, and has currently grossed more than $120 million. John has said that once the tour ends he plans to retire.
Rocketman, which stars Targron Egerton as John, details the musician’s life with honest depictions of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It received positive reviews from film critics and was a hit at the box office.