Elton John is a musical genius, Vladimir Putin says, but he's mistaken about the Russian leader's attitudes on LGBTQ rights. John had criticized Putin over remarks he'd made in an interview with the Financial Times, after scenes showing gay sex and drug use were removed from John's biopic, Rocketman, for its showings in Russia. Five minutes was cut to comply with Russia's "homosexual propaganda" law, Rolling Stone reports. Putin said the policies were designed to protect children from what he called propaganda and proselytizing by the LGBTQ community. "Let a person grow up first before making a choice," Putin said in the interview, per Sky News. "Let the children in peace."
Saying he was "deeply upset" by Putin's comments, the star posted a letter to him on Facebook. "I find duplicity in your comment that you want LGBT people to 'be happy' and that 'we have no problem in that,'" John wrote. "Yet Russian distributors chose to heavily censor my film Rocketman by removing all references to my finding true happiness through my 25-year relationship with David and the raising of my two beautiful sons." At the G20 summit in Japan, Putin answered by saying: “I have a lot of respect for him, he is a genius musician, we all enjoy his music, but I think he is mistaken.” He said Russia has a "relaxed and unprejudiced" attitude toward LGBTQ people but repeated that minors need to be "left alone." In addition to cutting scenes, per Rolling Stone, Russian censors removed the film’s postscript saying that John and his partner were raising children. (Samoa banned Rocketman.)