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The Vladimir Putin-Elton John Gay Rights Summit that Wasn’t

The British pop star and Russian president will no longer meet to discuss gay rights.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13:  Elton John performed songs from his new album Wonderful Crazy Night out February 5, as well as classic hits, on January 13th at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Island Records)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 13: Elton John performed songs from his new album Wonderful Crazy Night out February 5, as well as classic hits, on January 13th at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Island Records)

Last September, Elton John, the openly gay British singer who has spent decades advocating for AIDS research, called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attitude toward gay rights “isolating and prejudiced.”

Then John said he wanted to meet with him.

And surprisingly, Putin — who rules over a country that has outlawed what it describes as “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” — agreed.

But on Thursday, after months of anticipation, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced that the meeting, which was slated for later this month, would be postponed indefinitely.

“We were in correspondence with him a couple of weeks ago, because there had been an agreement that, if their schedules allow, this meeting would take place,” he told reporters in Moscow. “Their schedules do not match up,” Peskov added.

“President Putin expressed readiness for this meeting. But this time, the meeting won’t take place, unfortunately.”

John made his initial critical remarks about Putin’s treatment of LGBT people on the BBC last September. That prompted prank phone calls to the singer from Russian satirists pretending to be the president himself. Then, in November, Putin really did call him, and John said he “was very affable, he was very apologetic, he was very sincere.”

In the meantime, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Russia to repeal its propaganda law, which the advocacy group has called a violation of freedom of expression.

John will be performing in Moscow later this month as part of his global tour, and that’s when the now-scrapped meeting was scheduled to take place.

So when will the opportunity for the two to meet rise again? As John says in his hit song “Rocket Man”: I think it’s gonna be a long, long time.

Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Island Records

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