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Elton John slams Russia for cutting Rocketman's scenes

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Elton John is slamming Russian movie distributors after they censored Rocketman and excluded several scenes showing gay sex and affection from the film.

In a joint statement obtained by PEOPLE, the 72-year-old singer and the filmmakers of the musical biopic stated, “We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor Rocketman for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today.

“Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton’s extraordinary life, warts and all,” the statement continued.

“That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people,” it read. “We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world.”

A spokesperson for Central Partnership, the film’s Russian distributor confirmed to TASS, a news agency, the film had “been modified to make it comply with Russian law.”

Russia’s Culture Ministry provided a statement to TASS, saying, “The Russian Culture Ministry issued no recommendations concerning the removal of any scenes from the said movie, the decision was made solely by the distributor.”

In 2013, Russia passed a law that outlawed the promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors in the press, TV, radio, film, the internet and other outlets, according to The New York Times.

Rocketman debuts in Russian theaters, but at a Moscow preview of the film five minutes were cut and the closing credits were changed to exclude references to John’s life with his partner, David Furnish, and their two children, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Russian film critic Anton Dolin wrote in a Facebook post that “all scenes of kisses, sex and oral sex between men have been cut” from the film.

“At the same time, the theme of the homosexuality of the hero in the movie is still central,” Dolin wrote.

The film’s star, Taron Egerton, responded to the censorship on Instagram writing, “I am crestfallen that the decision was made to censor our movie for the Russian market.”