Russia's Putin puts off meeting with Elton John
Russian President Vladimir Putin is unable to meet Elton John for a long-planned discussion of gay rights when the singer performs in Moscow next week, the Kremlin spokesman said Thursday.
"Unfortunately this time it won't work out," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, asked if Putin would manage to meet the star when he gives a concert in Moscow on Monday.
"The schedules don't fit," Peskov said. "That doesn't mean such a meeting won't happen next time."
Peskov said he "had been corresponding a couple of weeks ago" with the musician over a possible meeting.
"As you know, there was indeed an agreement that if their schedules fitted, there would be a meeting, President Putin expressed readiness to do this," Peskov said.
Putin is set to travel to Greece later this week to meet Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and visit an Orthodox Christian holy site, although it was not clear if this was the reason why he could not meet the singer.
The British music legend, who is gay and is a prominent fundraiser for AIDS charities, said in September last year that he wanted to talk about gay rights with Putin.
"I'd love to meet him," he told the BBC, saying he would tell the Russian leader: "Don't isolate and be prejudiced against gay people."
Putin in 2013 signed a hugely controversial anti-gay law banning the promotion or display of homosexuality to minors.
A pair of Russian pranksters shortly afterwards rang the singer pretending to be Putin and convinced him that the Russian leader wanted to meet.
Putin then responded with a genuine call, saying he was ready to meet for a discussion, but since then nothing more has been said of this.
Monday's concert, when John may voice his views on gay rights in Russia, comes as Moscow city authorities has banned a gay pride event planned for Friday and Saturday, the sixth such ban under current mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
© 2016 AFP