A pair of Russian phone pranksters have claimed they fooled Elton John into believing he was talking to President Vladimir Putin.
The singer posted on Instagram two days ago to thank the Russian President, after Putin had ‘reached out’ and spoken via telephone. “I look forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia,” he wrote.
However, the Kremlin has since denied any knowledge of the conversation, and today (September 16) Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Krasnov, two famous Russian phone pranksters, claimed to have been behind the phone call.
“We thought it wasn’t likely that Putin would want to meet with him and call, at least not so quickly,” said Vladimir Krasnov, who claimed to have impersonated Putin. Alexei Stolyarov, meanwhile, played the president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Speaking to Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda the pair, known as Vovan and Lexus, commented, “It turned out that Elton John was really waiting for this call, and so he immediately believed it really was a conversation with the people who we said we were. He said: ‘Thank you, you’ve made my day. This day and this conversation has been the most wonderful and lovely in my life.’”
Now the duo have announced that they will broadcast a recording of the conversation tonight on a late-night Russian TV show. See Elton John’s Instagram post below.
Reports of homophobic attacks have increased in Russia in recent years while Putin passed a law in June 2013 that made it legal to prosecute individuals promoting “homosexual behaviour among minors”.
Speaking to BBC News, John said Putin’s attitude to gay people was “isolating and prejudiced” and “ridiculous” and cited comments made by the President in 2014 about gay people targeting children.
“Give me a break,” John said. “You are President of Russia, and you go and say stupid things like that?”
“I would like to meet [Mr Putin],” he added. “It’s probably pie in the sky… He may laugh behind my back when he shuts the door, and call me an absolute idiot, but at least I can think I have the conscience to say I tried.”
Elton John is a staunch advocate for gay rights and just last month criticised a Venice mayor who has removed books from schools that feature same-sex families.
The city’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro was elected in June and went on to ban 49 children’s books that made reference to gay marriage from schools.
However, John’s outspoken nature does occasionally land him in trouble. In June he was forced to apologise after comparing stewards to Hitler during a gig in Gloucester.