Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Sir Elton John has been hailed as an "extraordinary person" and "distinguished musician" by embattled Russian President Vladimir Putin after the star refused to cancel his gigs in the country amid a backlash over gay rights.

But this is nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation

The Rocket Man hitmaker performed two concerts in Russia last month (Dec13) despite protests over a controversial law outlawing the promotion of homosexuality to minors.

The singer also urged other stars not to join a boycott of the country as he is convinced it will not help the fight for gay rights there.

Sir Elton has now won praise from the country's president, who voiced his admiration for the star in a new interview with the BBC, insisting Russians embrace the gay singer "regardless of his sexual orientation".

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Putin says, "We have recently passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse. But this is nothing to do with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation. There's a world of difference between these things... homosexual people can't feel inferior here, because there is no professional, career or social discrimination against them. "When they achieve great success, for example Elton John - he's an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation". Putin goes on to address calls for a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, which has been backed by stars including Lady Gaga and Lily Allen, adding, "People have different sexual orientation.

We will welcome all athletes and all guests of the Olympics".