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Vladimir Putin and Elton John trade barbs over LGBT rights

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Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized traditional family values” in his most recent comments that pushed back against singer Elton John in the two’s clash over gay rights.

Putin, speaking at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, reportedly said he didn’t “understand” when he was presented with the “idea of five or six genders,” doubling down on his comments in a Financial Times interview published days before.

The leader insisted he was “not trying to insult anyone because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia,” but “some things do appear excessive.”

“We have no problem with LGBT persons,” Putin told the Times. “God forbid, let them live as they wish. But some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles.”

The leader continued, saying he wished “everyone be happy,” but this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

John took to social media to hit back at Putin for the comments, saying he was “deeply upset,” and accusing the leader of “hypocrisy.”

“I find duplicity in your comment that you want LGBT people to ‘be happy’ and that ‘we have no problem in that,'” the singer wrote on Twitter. “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.”

However, the two came back into the spotlight on the issue when a Russian distributor cut around five minutes of footage from John’s biopic, “Rocketman,” because the film depicted gay sex and men kissing, which reportedly violated the country’s laws banning “homosexual propaganda.”

An ending scene from the film that detailed John’s two children with husband David Furnish was also cut.

John and the filmmakers said they were unaware of the decision and rebuked the cuts, calling it a “sad reflection” of a “divided” and “cruelly unaccepting” world.

Read more: Scenes from Elton John biopic reportedly cut from Russian version due to ‘homosexual propaganda’ law

Homosexuality itself is not criminalized in Russia, but the country is widely hostile to LGBT people, passing a law banning material perceived as LGBT “propaganda,” preventing the depiction of LGBT people in media.

The two have appeared friendly in the past. In September 2015, John posted on Instagram that he would like to discuss gay rights with Putin before he was fooled by a prank call by a Russian celebrity prankster who purported to be the country’s leader.

After the prank went public, the Kremlin confirmed Putin had spoken to the singer on a different occasion, telling him to not “be offended” and that they would meet if their schedules agreed.

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