RUSSIAN PRESIDENT DISMISSES CLAIMS OF HOMOPHOBIA, SAYING THAT ELTON JOHN’S RECENT VISIT IS PROOF THAT RUSSIANS DO NOT DISCRIMINATE.
BY ORLY LYONNE
John’s response came days after the Russian President claimed he had gay friends and praised the “personal achievements” of gay celebrities like John whom he called “extraordinary.” In a statement to the press, John said: “What I heard reinforced all the media stories that have been circling since the propaganda bill became federal law: that vicious homophobia has been legitimized by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people’s basic human rights.”
The law has come under fire from human rights activists as Russia prepares to host the Winter Olympics this month.
ELTON JOHN: “… VICIOUS HOMOPHOBIA HAS BEEN LEGITIMIZED BY THIS LEGISLATION AND GIVEN EXTREMISTS THE COVER TO ABUSE PEOPLE’S BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS.”
During a visit to Moscow in December, John performed a concert at which he condemned the law, and said he was keen to gain a first-hand understanding of its effect on the LGBT community.
He added that he would welcome the chance to introduce Putin to gay Russians.
Russia’s law bans the dis- semination of “gay propaganda” among minors, and has become a focal point of criticism by the West and human rights activists who say the discriminatory law represents a crackdown on rights and freedoms under Putin.
Putin has addressed the controversy around the law with journalists several times in the past weeks ahead of this month’s Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a showcase that Russia hopes will burnish its image abroad.
He invoked John as proof that Russians do not discriminate against gays.
“Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation,” Putin told foreign journalists on last month. Putin also said that he had gay acquaintances and told the BBC that he would “definitely” talk with gay celebrities like John and actor Ian McKellen.