No gays in Sochi, mayor of Winter Olympics city tells BBC

Jan 27, 2014

Anatoly Pakhomov says gays welcome in his city, as long as they don't 'impose their habits' on locals

THERE are no gay people living in Sochi, the mayor of the Russian city hosting the Winter Games has said. 

But Anatoly Pakhomov, a member of president Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, insisted homosexuals would be welcome in his city so long as they don't "impose their habits on others", the BBC's Panorama programme reports.

Pakhomov made his comments to the BBC's Panorama programme after he was asked if gay visitors to the 2014 Winter Games should disguise their sexuality while in Russia. The issue has been contentious since Russia passed anti-gay laws which criminalise public support for same-sex relationships.

The mayor replied: "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."

The comment is remarkable – from a statistical point of view, if nothing else – given that Sochi is home to almost 350,000 people.

When challenged on his assertion, Pakhomov admitted he couldn't be certain there wasn't a single gay person in Sochi, but said: "I don't bloody know them."

As part of its report, Panorama visited a gay bar in Sochi and interviewed a drag queen, Miss Zhu-Zha. She told the programme: "In some places there's serious prejudice against gay people. In other places it's not as bad."

Meanwhile, the British government has warned that terrorist attacks are "very likely to occur" in Russia before or during the Games. A threat assessment seen by the BBC, identifies a Caucasus group, Imarat Kavkaz (IK), as the main danger - saying it has repeatedly expressed a desire to target the event.

Whitehall believes that the city of Volgograd – the gateway to Sochi – is a more likely target due to the massive military presence in the Olympic city, the BBC reports.

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