In Brief

Elton John 'pranked' with hoax Vladimir Putin call

Sir Elton, who has long campaigned for gay rights, led to believe he was talking with Russian leader

Elton John

Sir Elton John appears to have been tricked into thinking he had talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin about gay rights over the phone.

Earlier this week, Sir Elton posted a message on Instagram, thanking Putin for "reaching out" and speaking to him via telephone, adding that he looked forward to meeting him "face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia".

However, a spokesman for the Kremlin, which has long faced international criticism for its laws against homosexuality, denied the phone call ever took place.

Now it seems that Sir Elton has fallen victim to a pair of Russian pranksters, Vladimir Krasnov and Aleksei Stolyarov, who posed as Putin and his press secretary Dmitry Peskov, reports The Times.

The comedians, who have previously pranked the presidents of Georgia and Belarus, played excerpts of their hoax call during a popular evening show called Vecherny Urganton on Russian state television.

In the excerpts, Sir Elton – who had called for a meeting with the Russian leader just days earlier to discuss his "ridiculous" attitude towards gay people – described the prospect of meeting Putin in person as "incredible".

After the fake Putin pointed out that Sir Elton had met with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko at the weekend, the singer assured him that it was "not a political thing".

He added: "My position in life is that people who are gay should be included in all walks of life and given basic freedom. I love Russia, it's been part of my life since 1979 and I just want to make the situation better if I can."

Nevertheless, the prank did prompt a response from the real Dmitry Peskov, who suggested that Putin would be willing to discuss the situation with Sir Elton, reports the BBC.

The Rocket Man singer is among many people to criticise Russia for its stance on LGBT equality.

A 2013 law made it illegal to provide information about homosexuality to people under 18 and a report by Human Rights Watch last year pointed to Moscow's failure to prevent and prosecute homophobic violence amid a rise in attacks against minorities.

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