After he met with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to discuss gay rights in Ukraine, Elton John took to Instagram to thank Russian president Vladimir Putin. John said that Putin had called him and offered to meet with him in person to discuss the situation in Russia, where there has been a rash of hate crimes against LGBT people and where there are stringent laws against disseminating gay “propaganda.” That’s a huge thing for an entertainer to take on, and if it had really happened, it could’ve represented a real opportunity for John to do good in the world. But it didn’t happen. Elton John got punk’d.
The New York Times reports that Vladimir Krasnov and Alexey Stolyarov, two well-known Russian celebrity pranksters, have taken credit for the phone call, claiming in the national tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda that the entire phone call was a hoax. The two of them posed as Putin and his interpreter and press secretary Dmitri S. Peskov, and they’ve played clips of the conversation on late-night comedy and variety shows. Since then, a recording of the full 11-minute conversation has appeared online:
So: What am I missing here? Prank phone calls are supposed to be funny, right? This just seems like an awkward and plausible conversation between a dictator and a pop star who’s trying to make things better in the dictator’s country. Is the guy speaking Russian saying something uproariously raunchy?
Krasnov and Stolyarov have a history of pranking celebrities and political figures, and they won’t reveal how they got Elton John’s phone number. The same day that John thanked Putin for the phone call, press secretary Peskov denied that the conversation had taken place. Now he says that the two pranksters should apologize to John and that Putin, if asked, will meet with John. So maybe something good will come out of this nonsense after all?
UPDATE: Elton John has posted a response on his Instagram. He seems pretty level-headed (if serious) about the whole thing!
Pranks are funny. Homophobia, however is never funny. I love Russia and my offer to talk to President Putin about LGBT rights still stands. I will always stand up for those that are being degraded and discriminated against. If this unfortunate incident has helped push this vital issue back into the spotlight, then I am happy to be pranked on this occasion. @ejaf @president_vladimir_putin #lgbt #lgbtrights #ShareTheLove