Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the audience during a meeting with members of the All-Russian People's Front group in Moscow, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool
Russian President Vladimir Putin claims he is not homophobic and points out that he is a fan of a gay icon - singer and songwriter Sir Elton John. He made the clarification amid calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in February hosted by Sochi, made by gay rights group.
However, the day after he made the claim, Mr John himself issued a statement denouncing Russia's homophobia.
The singer lamented that "vicious homophobia has been legitimized by this legislation and given extremist the cover to abuse people's basic human rights."
Even while he was performing in Moscow in December, the flamboyant singer publicly denounced Russia's new anti-gay regulations as inhumane and isolating.
Mr John met on Wednesday with members of the LGBT community from Russia and after the discussion said, "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."
The gay music icon offered to introduce Mr Putin to gay Russians so he would have a better understanding of them.
In defending the controversial law, Mr Putin said neither he nor his government is homophobic, but it is just a child-protection measure.
"If you want my personal attitude, I would tell you that I don't care about a person's orientation and I myself know some people who are gay. We are on friendly terms. I'm not prejudiced in any way," Montreal Gazette quoted the president.
He described Mr John as an outstanding person and outstanding musician, adding that "Millions of our people sincerely love him despite his orientation."