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Elton offer to Putin over 'gay law'
Sir Elton John has offered to introduce Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the gay community in his country to show the impact of " deeply divisive" legislation.
The musician said on a recent visit to Moscow he met many people who had been attacked or threatened as a result of "propaganda" laws, which have been seen as anti-gay and which have prompted calls from figures such as Stephen Fry for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
At the weekend, Mr Putin denied he was homophobic, pointing out that he had gay friends and was a fan of Sir Elton.
The veteran singer has now issued a statement to say the effect of the laws has been " promoting misunderstanding and ignorance" and was "deeply dangerous" to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LBGT).
Sir Elton said he had wanted to hear "first hand" on a visit last month what differences the legislation had made to people.
"What I heard reinforced all the media stories that have been circling since the propaganda Bill became federal law: that vicious homophobia has been legitimised by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people's basic human rights," he said.
"The people I met in Moscow - gay men and lesbians in their 20s, 30s and 40s - told me stories about receiving threats from vigilante groups who would 'cure' them of homosexuality by dousing them with urine or beating them up. One young man was stalked outside a gay club by someone posing as a taxi driver who tried to garrotte him with a guitar string because he was a 'sodomite'.
"Everyone shared stories of verbal and physical abuse - at work, in bars and restaurants or in the street - since the legislation came into force last June. And some of the vital work providing HIV prevention information to the gay community has been labelled 'homosexual propaganda' and shut down."
Sir Elton went on: "It was very clear to me that, although foreigners like myself who are visiting Russia are not affected by this new law (and President Putin has recently confirmed this), it is a very different story for those living inside the country.
"President Putin asserts that this was not the intention, but it is undoubtedly the effect that this law has had by promoting misunderstanding and ignorance. In particular, it is very disappointing that the law explicitly links homosexuality with child sex abuse, which countless studies have shown to be conclusively wrong.
"The people I met in Moscow were decent, kind, patriotic men and women who had no thought of forcing their sexuality on anyone. Whatever the intention of Russia's homosexuality and paedophilia propaganda laws, I am absolutely clear from my own personal experience that it is proving deeply dangerous to the LGBT community and deeply divisive to Russian society."
"I would welcome the opportunity to introduce President Putin to some Russians who deserve to be heard, and who deserve to be treated in their own country with the same respect and warm welcome that I received on my last visit," the star added.