Elton John and Putin's Fake LGBT Summit

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The mystery of Elton John and Vladimir Putin has been solved. The singer on Monday said that the Russian president called him to talk about LGBT rights; Putin’s representatives said it didn’t happen; I took the opportunity to write about John’s long and somewhat surprising relationship with Russia. Now, the entertainers Vladimir “Vovan” Krasnov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov say they impersonated Putin and his interpreter. Here’s the tape:

As prank-call hilarity goes, it doesn’t even rise to the level of “is your  refrigerator running?” John simply says he’s honored to talk to Putin, that he has long loved the Russian people, and that he wants to advocate for LGBT rights in a face-to-face meeting. On Instagram, John confirmed that he was duped but said he hopes some good comes of it:

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.