After Elton John was fooled by prank callers pretending to be Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this fall, the pop star will now get his chance to meet the real Soviet leader in person. John told the BBC that after the prank calls, he received a call from the real Putin and hopes to schedule a time to discuss gay rights with the leader in the near future.
"He was very affable, he was very apologetic, he was very sincere,” said the legendary British singer and gay rights advocate. "As soon as I can get a date in my diary that coincides with him, then I will be going ... to Moscow and I will meet him.”
Sir Elton, 68, wants to encourage the Russian president to change his country’s laws regarding homosexuality, which have come under wide international criticism in recent years. The country is known for its light treatment of violence against LGBT individuals, and in 2013, it passed a bill that made it illegal to provide information about homosexuality to people under 18. This led to protests during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, and has prompted criticism from other world leaders and celebrities as well.
"Whether or not I make any progress, I don't know. I'm not going to go straight in there and go, 'Come on, you've got to do this, you've got to do that.' This is the starting of a dialogue and you don't get anywhere without a dialogue," John told the BBC.
In another BBC interview, in September, John called Putin’s attitude toward gay people “isolating and prejudiced.” In the most recent interview, the celebrity also criticized Northern Ireland for its lack of progress on legalizing gay marriage. Northern Ireland’s Assembly narrowly voted to approve same sex marriage this week, but the bill died when the largest party, the Democratic Unionists, vetoed any change, the BBC reported.
John is an outspoken proponent of gay rights around the world and also announced this week a partnership with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief aimed at helping increase access to medication for people with HIV and AIDS in countries that can be hostile to LGBT individuals. The Elton John AIDS Foundation and the U.S. fund will each donate $5 million to the cause, according to CNBC.
"I think it's going to make an awful lot of difference because we can get medicine to people who [are] being ostracised," the singer said, according to the BBC. "It's not going to be easy. But it's getting the medicine to the people who need it on a daily basis so the HIV and Aids epidemic doesn't spread any further.”