Sir Elton John 'happy to be pranked' over fake Vladimir Putin call
Sir Elton John said he was "happy to be pranked" by hoaxers who posed as Vladimir Putin on the phone to him, because it pushed "vital" LGBT issues back into the spotlight.
He said on Instagram earlier this week that he had spoken to the Russian president about gay rights in the country, but comedians Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov later claimed responsibility for the phone call.
Sir Elton, 62, responded to the incident on Instagram as audio of the call was released. "Pranks are funny. Homophobia, however is never funny," he wrote beside a photo of a young man with a bloody face.
"I love Russia and my offer to talk to president Putin about LGBT rights still stands. I will always stand up for those that are being degraded and discriminated against.
"If this unfortunate incident has helped push this vital issue back into the spotlight, then I am happy to be pranked on this occasion," he concluded.
In the phone call, Krasnov and Stolyarov posed as Putin and his press secretary Dmitry Peskov, with the fake Peskov translating.
The audio was released on Russia's Channel 1 and Sir Elton can be heard telling the pair it would be a "dream come true" to discuss gay rights with Putin.
They made plans to meet face to face in November to talk about "the violence towards LGBT people" in Russia.
Sir Elton concluded the call by saying: "Please thank him for his time and tell him he's made my day. It's a very wonderful moment in my life."
Sir Elton had told the BBC last week at an LGBT conference in Ukraine that he wished to sit down with Putin and discuss his "ridiculous" attitude towards gay rights and particularly the 2013 Russian law that bans the spreading of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors.
Prankster Krasnov, who is well known for fooling politicians on his YouTube channel, told a Russian newspaper that their ease in convincing Sir Elton was a result of his public call for talks.
"It turned out that Elton John was really waiting for this call, and so he immediately believed it really was a conversation with the people who we said we were," he told newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.
The real Dmitry Peskov told journalists that Putin was "ready to meet with Elton John among others to give answers to all the questions that he might ask", but the Kremlin had not received a request from the singer.