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Elton John: 'Russian boycott isn't the way to fight anti-gay law'

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Dec 11, 2013 | 4:28pm EST

Sir Elton John has urged his fellow celebrities not to boycott Russia over new legislation banning gay propaganda, insisting their star power is needed in the country to help "challenge" the law. The Rocket Man star recently ignored calls for him to pull out of a pair of concerts in Kazan and Moscow earlier this month (Dec13) to protest the ban, which outlaws the promotion of homosexuality to minors, but the openly-gay singer refused to listen to protesters, claiming he owed it to fans there to perform. During his Moscow show last week (06Dec13), Elton risked the wrath of Russian authorities by admitting he was "sad to learn" about the ruling and condemned it as "inhumane". He also dedicated the gig to Vladislav Tornovoi, a local gay man who was killed earlier this year (13) because of his sexuality. On Wednesday (11Dec13), Elton took to his official website to share his thoughts about the situation in Russia in more detail, writing, "At my concert I made a statement, directly to the audience, about how sad, shocking and isolating this new law seemed to be. A young woman with a rainbow banner cheered. I realised then, with thousands of Russians cheering for a man they knew to be gay, that I had made the right decision (to honour the concert commitments). "I believe the Russian people are decent and will be persuaded (to overturn the law) - but they need to hear us, and see we are human. They can't do that from a distance of 2,000 miles." Elton reveals his main concern is the spread of HIV and AIDS as medics and health professionals fear spreading basic information about the disease in case they are considered to be promoting same sex relationships, and he has encouraged other stars, like his pal Lady Gaga, who is backing calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, to speak out about the issues in the country itself. He adds, "A number of celebrities have recently declined to go to Russia, some for fear that it is unsafe. But I say to my friends - we all owe our freedoms to people who took risks with their safety for us, and faced far greater dangers than those confronting a western artist in Russia. Freedom is worth taking a risk for. "Saving people from HIV is worth taking a risk for, and there is nothing that fuels the Aids epidemic more effectively than stigma and isolation. We've learnt that over 20 years of funding HIV programmes around the world, including Russia. "As the Winter Olympics approaches, I know lots of athletes and artists are facing the same choice that I faced. I realise not everyone will share my view. But personally I hope and pray that prominent people will go to Russia and challenge the wrong thinking of this law. It breeds isolation, mistrust and hate, and cannot be how Russia wants to be known by the world."

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