Vladimir Putin tells Elton John he is 'mistaken' over Russian LGBT rights
29 June 2019, 15:18 | Updated: 29 June 2019, 18:08
Vladimir Putin has responded to criticism from Sir Elton John on the Russian leader's attitude to LGBT rights by saying the singer is mistaken.
Sir Elton accused Mr Putin of duplicity after the president criticised the West for emphasising lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans culture over "traditional family values".
Mr Putin told a news conference: "I deeply respect him, he is a musical genius and we all love his performance, but I believe he's mistaken."
Sir Elton and the filmmakers of his biopic Rocketman have hit out at a Russian distributor's decision to censor scenes from the new movie featuring gay sex and drug use.
The Russian president said his country's ban on what he called LGBT "propaganda" was aimed at protecting children from aggressive proselytising by the LGBT community.
"Let a person grow up first before making a choice," Mr Putin said. "Let the children in peace."
He claimed: "Our attitude to the LGBT community is absolutely calm and unbiased.
"This part of the community aggressively enforces its point of view on others," he added.
The music legend said he was "deeply upset" by Mr Putin's interview with the Financial Times in which the Russian president said liberalism "must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people".
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Addressing Mr Putin directly, Sir Elton wrote on Twitter: "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'.
"Yet Russian distributors chose to heavily censor my film Rocketman by removing all references to my finding true happiness through my 25 year relationship with David and the raising of my two beautiful sons.
"This feels like hypocrisy to me."
Human rights groups have said Russia's laws targeting the LGBT community have increased the hostility members face and made it more difficult for them to seek support.
One part of Russia, the mostly Muslim republic of Chechnya, saw a crackdown in 2017 during which more than 100 gay men were arrested and subjected to torture, with some of them killed, according to activists.
Earlier this year, human rights activists said Chechnya was carrying out a new crackdown in which at least two people died and about 40 people were detained. Authorities in Chechnya denied the claims.
(c) Sky News 2019: Vladimir Putin tells Elton John he is 'mistaken' over Russian LGBT rights