Two Russian phone pranksters have released audio of the conversation in which Elton John was duped into thinking he was talking to President Putin about LGBT issues in Russia.
Known as Vovan and Lexus, the duo are are well known in Russia for their on-air pranks, often focusing on celebrities and other high profile figures.
“It was a surprise for him. And actually Elton was looking forward to the chat. So we gave him what he wanted, and he was not in any doubt,” Vovan told RT.
Excerpts of the 11-minute long conversation were broadcast on Russian television on Wednesday night.
“He [Putin] heard that you wanted to talk to him about important problems in Russian life…” a translator says to John in the recording.
The excited performer responds: “Well, that’s incredible! I am a musician and a philanthropic person and a humanitarian. I’m not a politician, but I would love to sit down with the president and discuss things face to face, because I think we can solve many issues together.”
John explains that, “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.”
The fake Putin goes on to ask if John would agree to take part in a gay Pride in Russia in November, to which he responds: “I would like to do that. That would be fantastic.”
Towards the end of the conversation, the singer adds: “It’s a very wonderful moment in my life.”
On Monday, John posted on Instagram: “Thank-you to President Vladimir Putin for reaching out and speaking via telephone with me today. I look to forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia.”
The Kremlin later confirmed that the president had not spoken to the star.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has now urged the pranksters to apologise to John. “He is a singer who’s respected and loved by the Russian audience. It was not good to hoax him like that,” he told journalists on Wednesday.
Peskov added that if a formal request was received from John, “the Russian president will be ready to meet him and clarify all questions he has.”
In 2013, Putin signed a law prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships. The “gay propaganda” law effectively bars any expression or discussion of homosexuality in public, on television, in print or on the internet.