Real Putin calls Elton John

MOSCOW • Mr Vladimir Putin called pop star Elton John and suggested a meeting, the president's spokesman said on Thursday, after the British singer was tricked last week by a prankster impersonating the Russian leader.

"Putin... had a talk with Elton John," his spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by RIA Novosti state news agency as saying.

The Kremlin later confirmed the call on its website.

John did not initially believe that this time the call was for real, the spokesman said.

"You know, he (John) was doubtful for a while," Mr Peskov said.

The call from Mr Putin went through Russia's ambassador to Britain, who "had some trouble explaining he was the real Russian ambassador and the real president of our country wanted to speak", Mr Peskov said.

John was caught out last week by two Russian comedians who tricked him into believing that Mr Peskov had called from the Kremlin and connected him to Mr Putin after the singer said he would like to discuss Russia's "ridiculous" stance on gay rights with the president. They aired a recording of the 11-minute conversation on Russian TV.

Mr Putin decided to contact John as a gesture of sympathy after the incident, said Mr Peskov.

He told John not to get offended by the hoax call, the spokesman said, adding that Mr Putin said, "I know that some guys played a phone prank on you. Don't get offended at them, they're harmless, but of course, that doesn't excuse them."

Mr Peskov added: "Putin said that he knows what a popular performer Elton John is and, in the future, if their schedules coincide, he will be ready to meet with him and discuss any questions that are of interest."

John has criticised a 2013 Russian law that punishes individuals and organisations that spread "gay propaganda" among young people.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Real Putin calls Elton John'. Print Edition | Subscribe