Sir Elton John's hopes of adopting a Ukrainian toddler have been thrown into doubt after a government minister said the country's laws would not allow it.
The singer announced on Saturday he wanted to adopt a 14-month-old boy called Lev, who he said had “stolen his heart”.
But Ukraine's family, youth and sports minister Yuriy Pavlenko said the adoption was not possible because Sir Elton is too old and is not married.
Adoptive parents must be married under Ukrainian rules, and although Sir Elton and his partner David Furnish have been joined in a civil ceremony, the former Soviet republic does not recognise same-sex unions.
The law in Ukraine also states that adoptive parents should be no more than 45 years older than the child, making Sir Elton (62) too old.
His spokesman yesterday said he had no comment to make on the news from Ukraine.
Sir Elton met Lev, who is HIV positive, at an orphanage for children whose parents had fallen victim to Aids.
Ukraine has the fastest-rising HIV infection rate in Europe, and had travelled there with his Aids foundation.
If he were successful, Sir Elton would follow in the footsteps of actress Angelina Jolie who has three adopted children from Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia, and Madonna who adopted two children from Malawi in recent years.
Save the Children warned Sir Elton's bid risked sending out a dangerous signal about international adoption.
The charity's spokesman Adrian Lovett said: “International adoption can actually exacerbate the problem it hopes to solve.
“The very existence of institutions can encourage parents to abandon children in the hope that they will have a better life.
“It can mean that thousands of children are placed at potential risk of abuse in the closed environment of an institution.
“The best place for a child is nearly always in its home community. Most ‘orphans’ in institutions, including in Ukraine, have one or both parents still living, or have an extended family that could care for them with the right support.”
The charity said the fact Ukraine had not signed up to an international convention on inter-country adoption was a cause for concern.