No, Elton John, that was not Putin on the line

MOSCOW • When word emerged this week, via Elton John on Instagram, that Russia's President Vladimir Putin had called the British singer to discuss gay rights, the story seemed to some too good to be true.

On Wednesday, two pranksters said the whole thing was a hoax. Comedians Vladimir Krasnov and Alexey Stolyarov took responsibility for the hoax in Komsomolskaya Pravda, a national tabloid, saying they called John a day after he told journalists he would like to meet Putin to discuss gay rights.

The pair, who are known for elaborate pranks on celebrities and politicians, then appeared on a late- night comedy and variety show where clips of the conversation were played. Krasnov, who played Putin in the phone call, said: "I am ready to take all the blame."

They would not say how they got John's phone number. Putin has gained a reputation for supporting anti-gay policies and John is a strong supporter of gay rights.

Through a Russian interpreter, John is heard on the 11-minute call discussing a visit to Moscow with a man he believed was Putin.

"Tell him I am extremely honoured that he is calling me. It is a great privilege to be able to speak to one of the most influential people in the whole world. It's amazing," John says on the call, the tape of which was released to Reuters.

John's representatives did not return calls for comment on Wednesday after it was revealed that he had been the target of a prank.

On Wednesday, Putin's press secretary Dmitri Peskov said the pranksters should apologise to John who, he added, was a well- respected figure in Russia. He also said Putin was ready to speak with the singer if asked.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2015, with the headline 'No, Elton John, that was not Putin on the line'. Print Edition | Subscribe