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Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed out of a meeting with British rock star and gay rights activist Elton John.
The two talked last September by telephone when Putin pledged to meet the singer to “discuss whatever issues are of interest.”
But the Kremlin now claims that a scheduling conflict means there will be no meeting on Monday when John is due in Russia to play a concert at a top Moscow venue.
“We were in correspondence a couple of weeks ago, because there was an agreement that, if their schedules allow, this meeting could take place,” said Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Putin. “President Putin expressed readiness for this meeting. But this time, the meeting won’t take place, unfortunately — their schedules do not match up. But this does not mean that such a meeting won’t take place next time.”
John — knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 1998 for services to British pop music and his work in raising money for AIDS charities — has been hoping for a meeting since last September when two Russian comedians telephoned and fooled him into believing that Putin had called him to discuss gay rights.
The incident, which the singer laughed off at the time after posting a message on social media publicizing it, led to a genuine offer from the Kremlin to arrange a meeting, when Putin subsequently called the singer to say he was open to “discuss whatever issues are of interest.”
The prank call — and subsequent genuine conversation — was sparked after John, during a visit to Ukraine, told the BBC that he would like to meet Putin to talk about Russia’s “ridiculous” stance on gay rights.
Three years ago Russia introduced laws banning the promotion of what it termed “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. Gay rights activists in the country say the law has led to an increase in homophobia and attacks on homosexuals.
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