Two comedians told Russian media on Wednesday that they were responsible for impersonating Vladimir Putin and his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov in a phone conversation with music icon and LGBT advocate, Elton John.
John had previously expressed interest in a BBC interview about speaking with Putin about Russia’s appalling record on LGBT rights, but admitted that the prospect might be “pie in the sky.”
Vladimir “Vovan” Krasnov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, who are famous for prank-calling Ukrainian and Russian celebrities, told Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that they figured Putin wouldn’t agree to the call, and so decided to trick Elton John into thinking that they were Putin instead, the Guardian reports.
On Monday, John posted an elated message on his Instagram, saying he’d had a successful chat with Putin and would soon be meeting him face-to-face.
Any hint that the call might, in fact, have been faked only appeared on Tuesday, when the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, denied that the call had taken place.
According to the Guardian, Krasnov told Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda “It turned out that Elton John was really waiting for this call, and so he immediately believed it really was a conversation with the people who we said we were.”
Krasnov said John told him that him that the day he received the call was “the most wonderful and lovely in [his] life.”
John’s spokespeople have yet to comment on the call or the possibility that it was a hoax.
Although homosexuality is not illegal, gay rights in Russia have been increasingly under attack since the mid-2000s. Violence against gay people has increased, gay pride parades have been cancelled and NGOs calling for the protection of LGBT rights have faced sanctions and governmental wrath. In 2013, the Federal government criminalized “propaganda” that was seen to promote gay rights or lifestyles to minors, but the law is widely seen as means of harassing and persecuting the LGBT community.
A video showing two men holding hands while walking down the street in Moscow displays some of the harassment that gay people face in Russia on a daily basis.