"We do not have them in our town."
That's Anatoly Pakhomov, the mayor of Sochi, in an interview with the BBC program Panorama. Pakhomov told BBC that gay people were welcome at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which his city will be hosting in 10 days — as long as they "don't impose their habits on others."
Pakhomov's comments refer to a controversial law the country passed in June, which bans the promotion of "non-traditional" sexuality to minors. The move was widely interpreted as an attack on gay rights. The mayor's comments also echo those of President Vladimir Putin, who assured gay visitors to Sochi earlier this month that they should feel at ease, as long as they "leave the children in peace."
When pressed by BBC reporter John Sweeney about whether he was certain there were no gay people in Sochi, Pakhomov replied, "I am not sure, but I don't bloody know them."
The Panorama segment, which can be viewed on the BBC site, includes a visit to an unmarked gay club in Sochi, a city of 340,000. Drag queen Madame Zhu-Zha told the program that there were in fact two such clubs in Sochi. And opposition leader Boris Nemtsov called the mayor's claims "laughable."
Last year, Reuters photographer Thomas Peter documented Sochi's gay scene in the lead-up to the Olympics. For a look at some of Peter's photos, check out the gallery above.