Elton John has attacked Russian leader Vladimir Putin for suggesting homosexuality is akin to pedophilia just days after the President saluted the rock star for honoring his commitment to perform in Moscow and Kazan in December.
Gay rights activists urged Elton to boycott the country in protest to anti-gay propaganda legislation, which was introduced to Russia last year, but he insisted his fans deserved to see him live.
He made little of the nation’s new laws during his concerts, simply calling them “inhumane” and “isolating”.
But now he has had a chance to take stock of his Russian gigs, he has taken aim at Putin in a fiery new post on his website.
Elton writes, “I met with members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Moscow. Although I was still welcomed as an openly gay foreigner, I wanted to really understand at first-hand what difference the legislation had made to Russian LGBT in their own country.
“What I heard reinforced all the media stories that have been circling since the propaganda bill became federal law: that vicious homophobia has been legitimised by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people’s basic human rights.
“The people I met in Moscow – gay men and lesbians in their 20s, 30s and 40s – told me stories about receiving threats from vigilante groups who would ‘cure’ them of homosexuality by dousing them with urine or beating them up. One young man was stalked outside a gay club by someone posing as a taxi driver who tried to garrotte him with a guitar string because he was a ‘sodomite’.
“Everyone shared stories of verbal and physical abuse – at work, in bars and restaurants or in the street – since the legislation came into force last June. And some of the vital work providing HIV prevention information to the gay community has been labelled ‘homosexual propaganda’ and shut down.
“It was very clear to me that, although foreigners like myself who are visiting Russia are not affected by this new law (and President Putin has recently confirmed this), it is a very different story for those living inside the country.
“It is very disappointing that the law explicitly links homosexuality with child sex abuse, which countless studies have shown to be conclusively wrong. The people I met in Moscow were decent, kind, patriotic men and women who had no thought of forcing their sexuality on anyone. Whatever the intention of Russia’s homosexuality and pedophilia propaganda laws, I am absolutely clear from my own personal experience that it is proving deeply dangerous to the LGBT community and deeply divisive to Russian society.
“I would welcome the opportunity to introduce President Putin to some Russians who deserve to be heard, and who deserve to be treated in their own country with the same respect and warm welcome that I received on my last visit.”
Elton’s comments come just days after Putin hailed the gay rocker as an “extraordinary person” and “distinguished musician”.