Putin Praises Elton John, Rules Out Discrimination of Gay Athletes at Sochi

Vladimir Putin Meeting Russian Filmmakers 2013 H

The Russian president also downplayed the expected absence of several key Western leaders.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has praised Elton John, an artist who used his recent Russian show to express support for the local gay community, and stressed that Russia will welcome all athletes and guests at the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Putin's comments came during an interview with several Russian and international reporters, including ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, the only U.S. journalist.

VIDEO: George Stephanopoulos Lands First U.S. Interview With Putin Ahead of Sochi Olympics

"Elton John is an outstanding person [and] outstanding musician,” Putin was quoted as saying by NME. “Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation."

The statements came only a few weeks after John's Moscow show, which he dedicated to a man killed for being gay in South Russia, also condemning discrimination against the local gay community onstage.

Recently, the Russian president has made some more remarks related to treatment of gay people and the refusal by some Western leaders to attend next month's Sochi Olympics.

STORY: Putin Tells Gay People Visiting Olympics, 'Leave Children in Peace'

"People have different sexual orientations,” Putin was quoted as saying by AFP. “We will welcome all athletes and all guests of the Olympics."

According to the Russian leader, the fact that several major Western leaders won't be attending the Olympics shouldn't be exaggerated.

"Political ambitions related to how many came and where, they are absolutely inappropriate," he was quoted as saying. "The Olympics is not a competition of politicians."