By Albert Lin
The Sochi Olympics open on Feb. 7, and Russia’s position on LGBT people has been made clear. However, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov took the government ban on the promotion of “nontraditional” sexuality to minors to an interesting place when he declared in a BBC interview that his city has an LGBT population of zero.
When asked if LGBT athletes or supporters would be welcome in Sochi, Pakhomov said, “Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and doesn’t impose their habits on others. 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.”
When pressed on his oddly absolute pronouncement, Pakhomov backtracked. “I am not sure [that there are no LGBT people], but I don’t bloody know them.”
Kremlin opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who lost the 2008 mayoral election to Pakhomov, laughed when informed of Pakhomov’s statement. “As far as I know, there are several gay clubs in Sochi,” he told Sweeney. “How do they survive Why they are not bankrupt”
Indeed, BBC reporter John Sweeney visited one such bar the night before he interviewed Pakhomov. A drag queen named Madame Zhu-Zha told Sweeney, “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.”
Sweeney’s report is below.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his stance last week in a meeting with Olympic volunteers, saying, “We have no ban on the nontraditional forms of sexual intercourse among people. We have the ban on the propaganda of homosexualism and pedophilia. I want to stress this: propaganda among minors. These are two absolutely different things: a ban on certain relations or the propaganda of such relations.”
Putin even seemed to suggest that his country was more forward thinking when it comes to LGBT rights. “We do not ban anything, nor do we grab anyone, and unlike other countries we have no liability for such relations. So one can feel calm and at ease, just leave kids alone please.”