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Elton John to Vladimir Putin: Let me introduce you to my gay Russian friends

Dmitry Astakhov / RIA Novosti via AP, file

Then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, meets Elton John after his concert in Moscow in December 2010.

Elton John lashed out at Russia’s laws banning homosexual "propaganda" and said they provide cover for extremists, just days after President Vladimir Putin said his country welcomed gays.

"Vicious homophobia has been legitimized by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people's basic human rights," the singer said in a statement posted on his website Wednesday, referring to legislation passed in June that bans the dissemination of so-called gay propaganda among minors.

John recalled meeting many "decent, kind, patriotic men and women who had no thought of forcing their sexuality on anyone" during a recent visit to Moscow.

Putin contends that Russia does not discriminate against gay people, and has even referred to John, who performed in Moscow in December, as proof.

"Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation," Putin told foreign journalists on Sunday.

Putin has offered assurances to gay athletes and fans attending the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics next month, while defending his country's anti-gay laws by equating gays with pedophiles.

Putin also told BBC journalist Andrew Marr on Sunday that "I don’t care about a person's orientation. And I myself know some people who are gay."

He added: "I've honored several members of the gay community in this country, but for their personal achievements not sexual orientation."

The "Tiny Dancer" singer, meanwhile, maintained that while prominent foreigners like himself are treated well in Russia, the story is very different gays and lesbians who live in the country.

"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," he said. "One young man was stalked outside a gay club by someone posing as a taxi driver who tried to garrote 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. 

"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."

John added that it was "very disappointing that the law explicitly links homosexuality with child sex abuse, which countless studies have shown to be conclusively wrong."

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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