The mayor of Sochi is under the impression that there are no gay people in his city.
Anatoly Pakhomov spoke with the BBC ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics and discussed how gay people would be treated in the Russian region with the country's "homosexual propaganda" law in place. Pakhomov said gays are welcome at the Games in spite of this, so long as they "respect the laws of the Russian Federation and [don't] impose their habits on others."
He claimed gay people do not have to hide their sexuality in Sochi.
"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," he said. He later admitted that he isn't absolutely certain there are no gay people in Sochi. "I am not sure, but I don't bloody know them."
There are at least two gay clubs in the city, Russia's RT noted. Russian social networks also point to multiple lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in the area.
Nikolay Alekseyev, a Russian gay rights activist, compared Pakhomov's comments to those of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who once reportedly said, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals." Alekseyev said, per RT, gay people are present “in any city, any country, any culture and any historical epoch."
Russia's anti-gay law makes it illegal to disseminate information about "nontraditional sexual relations" or "relations not conducive to procreation" to minors, the Associated Press reported. Individuals found in violation of the law could face fines up to 5,000 rubles ($156) or up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for media organizations. Tourists have already reportedly been detained under this law.
Various celebrities and political figures have in turn backed a boycott of the Sochi Games.