Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov spoke with American journalists about the 2014 Winter Olympics and discussed how gay people would be treated in the host city with the country’s “homosexual propaganda” law in place.
Pakhomov admitted that people with non-traditional sexuality will also be welcomed at the Winter Olympic Games in spite of this, so long as they “respect the laws of the Russian Federation and [don’t] impose their habits on others.”
“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.
He also added that when attending Sochi gays not have to hide their sexuality.
“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.
Pakhomov 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.”
BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney paid a visit to a gay bar in Sochi the night before he interviewed the mayor. According to Sweeney, most people did not want to be filmed and those that did were cautious about what they said.
Drag queen Madame Zhu-Zha said there was a gay community in the city and in other areas of Russia.
“There are very many clubs for gay people in Moscow – in Sochi we have two gay clubs as well. In some places there’s serious prejudice against gay people. In other places it’s not as bad.”
Boris Nemtsov, former Deputy Prime Minister and now a leader of the opposition, said the mayor’s claim was laughable.
“As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi. How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?”
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said homosexuals would be welcome in Sochi for the Olympics but said, “just leave the children alone”.
“We don’t have a ban on non-traditional sexual relations,” he said. “We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia.”
A Russia’s gay “propaganda” law forbids even talking about gay releationships around minors. Gay rights groups have feared that gay athletes and fans could be prosecuted if they attend the Olympics, reports ABC News.
In one of his recent interviews with foreign journalists Putin defended the strange law, saying it was meant to protect children.
“It seems to me that the law that we have adopted does not hurt anyone. Moreover, individuals of non-traditional orientation cannot feel like second-rate humans in this country because they are not discriminated against in any way,” Putin said.
“I couldn’t care less about their sexual orientation. We will welcome all athletes and all visitors to the Olympics,” the Russian president added. “None of our guests will have any problems.”