A still from 'Rocketman.' (Paramount Pictures/File)
Gay sex scenes have been cut from the Russian version of Elton John biopic "Rocketman", critics who saw a preview said Friday, as the local distributor said it had made edits for legal reasons.
Russia has a dire record on LGBT rights and a controversial law bans the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors, though it is not clear why this would apply to the 18-rated film.
Film critic Anton Dolin wrote on his Facebook page that all the sex or kissing scenes had been cut out, adding that it had been "very obvious" cuts had been made.
The film, which is set for general release in Russia next week, addresses the British pop icon's struggles with his sexuality, drugs and alcohol.
Another journalist who attended the screening, Misha Kozyrev, wrote that scenes featuring drugs were also cut out from the film.
"Yes, the film has been amended to comply with the laws of the Russian Federation," distribution company Central Partnership told the TASS news agency, without providing details.
Russia's culture minister Vladimir Medinsky told state agency RIA Novosti that his ministry had nothing to do with the edits and that "everything is decided by the distributor."
"We do not cut anything, I don't even understand what this is about," he was quoted as saying.
Dolin also said the text that ends the film was changed.
In the original, viewers learn that Elton John eventually found love and is raising two children with his same-sex partner.
In the Russian version, it says only that he founded an NGO to fight AIDS, according to Dolin.
Amnesty International called the censorship of the film "an insult for the rights of LGBTI people."
In a statement on Friday it said the editing of the film was an example of Russia's anti-gay laws "undercutting freedom of expression and encouraging homophobia in Russia."
Other films that included gay scenes, including the recent biopic about British rock star Freddy Mercury, "Bohemian Rhapsody", were shown in Russian cinemas.
Elton John is popular in Russia, where he first performed during the Soviet era in 1979.
But he has been a vocal critic of Russia's anti-gay laws.
"Rocketman" premiered on May 16 at the Cannes film festival where it received a standing ovation.