Vladimir Putin's stance on gay rights has become a lightning rod ahead of the Olympics. (ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of 2014 Winter Olympics host-city Sochi, said that there are no gay people in his city, according to BBC News.
Pakhomov, a member of President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, said that homosexuality is not welcome in his region, but that it would welcome gay people with "hospitality" if they respect Russian laws.
From the BBC report:
"Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and doesn't impose their habits on others," he said.
But when asked whether gay people had to hide their sexuality in Sochi, the Mayor said: "No, we just say that it is your business, it's your life. But it's not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city."
When challenged, the mayor admitted that he was not certain there were no gay people in Sochi: "I am not sure, but I don't bloody know them."
But the report goes on to say that BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney went to a gay bar in Sochi the night before interviewing Pakhomov. One patron at the bar told Sweeney that there are two gay clubs in Sochi, and many others across Russia.
Boris Nemtsov, the former Deputy Prime Minister and now an opposition party leader, scoffed at Pakhomov's claim.
"As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi," he said. "How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?"
Russia's recent history with gay-rights issues has become a lightning rod ahead of the 2014 Olympics. In June, Putin signed into law a ban on propaganda of ''nontraditional sexual relations" to minors, which has provoked widespread international outrage.
Last week, Putin said that gay visitors should feel "at ease" during the Olympics. But, oddly, he included in his statement a plea to "leave the children in peace" and appeared to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia.
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