Elton John will not be deterred by calls his concerts be banned, that he abandon his flamboyant costumes for a traditional Cossack uniform and that his music is the "devil's work." The musician will play his two concerts in Russia Friday and Saturday night as planned, his tour promoter SAV Entertainment confirmed on its website, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
John has insisted he will play in the country which has enacted a spate of controversial, anti-gay legislation. "As a gay man, I can't leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don't know what's going to happen, but I've got to go," John told The Guardian in September.
John could face up to two weeks in jail for violating Russia's prohibition of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors. Madonna and Lady Gaga ruffled the feathers of Russian authorities for their performances in the country in 2012, before the "gay propaganda" law was even passed, in which they expressed their support for the gay community. Both were accused of violating their visas and Madonna was threatened with a $10 million lawsuit, although it was eventually thrown out. Gaga's tour company was ultimately fined $600.
LGBT activists regard the entertainment industry as an important ally in their campaign against the Russian laws, which have also eroded the rights of same-sex couples internationally to adopt Russian children. While some entertainers like Cher and Bravo host Andy Cohen have said they turned down opportunities to appear in the country because of the laws, others have vowed to use such appearances to speak out about them.
"The problem is this law is so vague so it's very unclear as to what actions violate it," Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charles Joughin told U.S. News, "It could be that tweeting, 'I support of LGBT equality,' while you're in Russia could violate this law."
Many celebrities have also joined the HRC's #LoveConquersHate campaign, Madonna being the latest A-lister to don the t-shirt that says "Love Conquers Hate " in Russian. John has expressed caution in what he will say on stage in relation to the laws.
"You don't just go in there with guns blazing and say, 'Well, to hell with you.' Because they're going to say, 'To hell with you, and get out of the country.' That's not going to solve anything," he told NPR in September, adding he wanted to reach out to those in Vladimir Putin's administration. "I've gotta do it diplomatically, but I'm going to say what I think and what I feel," he said.