Elton John said Tuesday that Vladimir Putin phoned him after the musician requested a meeting to discuss Russia's anti-gay environment — but Putin's spokesman denied the report. And now Russian television hosts have come forward and claimed the call was actually a prank they orchestrated.
The Telegraph reports that hosts Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov, known as "Vova and Lexus", said in an interview with a Russian website that they prank called the singer and would air the tape on Russia's Channel 1 on the late night show "Vecherny Urgant."
"We think that Putin is unlikely to want at least in the near future to meet with him and to call, but it turned out that Elton John was waiting for that call, so immediately believed in the reality of a conversation with the people that we represent. He said: 'Thank you. You made my day. This day, and the conversation was the most wonderful and beautiful in my life."
The "Rocket Man" singer's representative told The Telegraph they were unaware of the hosts' claims.
On Instagram, the British star said "thank-you to President Vladimir Putin for reaching out and speaking via telephone with me today. I look to forward to meeting with you face-to-face to discuss LGBT equality in Russia."
John's publicist, Gary Farrow, confirmed the content of the Instagram post Tuesday.
Last week John criticized Russia's law against gay "propaganda" and comments by Putin suggesting that gay people prey on children. He told the BBC he would "love to sit down with him" and try to change Putin's mind.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies later Tuesday that Putin never called John.
"Putin did not have a conversation with Elton John, and, what's more, we have not received any requests from him for a meeting," Peskov was quoted as saying.
Peskov added, however, that Putin would be willing to talk to the musician if he reaches out to him.
"The president has always been open to discuss human rights issues," he said. "The president, I'm sure, will be ready to meet with Elton John, too, if there is such a request."
John performed in the then-Soviet Union in 1979 and still regularly plays shows in Russia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.