Elton John has taken to his official website to condemn Russian president Vladimir Putin and the country’s anti-gay laws.
In a statement posted to EltonJohn.com on Wednesday, the openly gay singer writes that “vicious homophobia has been legitimized by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people’s basic human rights.”
John said that while he has personally felt welcome while touring in Russia, he recognizes that others are suffering. He cited personal accounts from gay and lesbian Russians, who have faced discrimination and violence because of their sexuality:
“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. As Maria Maksakova told her fellow Russian MPs last month: ‘We are seeing extremely negative consequences as a result of this law, with the growth of hate crimes.’ President Putin asserts that this was not the intention, but it is undoubtedly the effect that this law has had by promoting misunderstanding and ignorance.”
The timing of John’s letter coincides with the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which begin on Feb. 6. Russia has faced increasing criticism from international figures in the lead up to the Games, for both its human rights record and new laws which make it illegal to promote gay relationships to children.