The tenderness as superstar musician Elton John cuddled a 14-month-old Ukrainian youngster, whom he said had stolen his heart, was plain for all to see.
But the 62-year-old singer – who had previously spoken of his hopes of welcoming the child into his family – would be unable to adopt him under the country's laws, said officials.
"The age difference between the adopter and the child cannot be more than 45 years," said Yuriy Pavlenko, the minister for Family, Youth and Sport.
Sir Elton's civil partnership with Canadian film director David Furnish would also not be recognised in the Eastern European state.
Their heart-warming meeting came when Elton was touring the orphanage where HIV-positive Lev is being cared for as part of the star's support for his eponymous Aids foundation.