Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is hostile toward the LGBT community and said that British singer Elton John was wrong to make such claims. “[Elton John] is mistaken,” Putin was quoted as saying by the Russian state-run news agency TASS. “We [in Russia] have a very neutral attitude to members of the LGBT community. We have a law, for which we’ve been slammed, a law banning propaganda of homosexuality among minors.”
According to Putin, the law just aims to make sure children are “left alone” until they’ve grown up, and then they can make decisions regarding their sexuality. In further remarks, Putin complemented the singer. “I respect him very much, he is a genial musician, he comes to Russia and we are happy to listen to him sing,” he said.
Putin made his remarks in response to John’s comments about a recent interview the Russian president conducted with the Financial Times in which the president called the number of gender categories “excessive” and said he did not want LGBT culture to “overshadow” Russian heterosexual culture.
In an open letter to Putin, released on Friday (June 28), John said, “I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies.”
“I find duplicity in your comment that you want LGBT people to ‘be happy’ and that ‘we have no problem in that’,” he added, referring to the fact that the recent Elton John biopic Rocketman was censored in Russia, with scenes depicting gay sex and drug consumption being cut.
Incidentally, the Russian culture ministry, which is in charge of issuing permissions for movies to be released, stressed that it didn’t request any changes, and that the cuts were made voluntarily by the local distributor.
This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.