There are no gays in Sochi, according to the Russian city’s mayor.
Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC in a story published Sunday that gays would be welcome at the Winter Olympic games in the host city, but added that homosexuality is “not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have them in our city.”
A reporter found evidence to the contrary. BBC Panorama’s John Sweeney visited a gay bar in Sochi the night before he interviewed Pakhomov.
When pressed about the presence of gays in the city, the mayor told BBC “I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.”
An opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, also said there were multiple gay bars in the city and told the BBC that Pakhomov’s claim was laughable.
“As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi,” he said. “How do they survive? Why they are not bankrupt?”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the country’s anti-gay propaganda law ahead of the Olympic games, arguing that the law “does not hurt anyone.”
This post has been updated.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.