27/01/2014 03:58 GMT | Updated 27/01/2014 06:59 GMT

Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov Says There Are No Gay People In His City

Sochi Mayor

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The Mayor of the Russian city hosting the Winter Olympics has declared that no gay people live there.

Amid a storm over Vladimir Putin's 'gay propaganda' law, the mayor of Sochi told BBC Panorama: "We do not have them in our city.”

Anatoly Pakhomov, a member of Putin’s United Russia party, also said that homosexuality is not accepted in the region.

Challenged by reporter John Sweeney, he conceded he could not be certain, but added: "I am not sure, but I don’t bloody know them.”

There have been concerns about the safety of gay athletes and visitors when the games get underway next week.

Elton John is among the critics of the 'propaganda' laws, which have reportedly led to an increase in homophobic attacks.

Earlier this month Putin said gay people must "leave children alone" during the games.

Pakhomov told Panorama: “Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and doesn’t impose their habits on others.”

Asked whether gay people would have to hide their sexuality, he went on: “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.”

For his Panorama investigation, Sweeney visited a gay bar and said people were cautious about speaking to camera.

Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, told the programme Pakhomov's claims were ridiculous.

“As far as I know there are several gay clubs in Sochi. How do they survive? Why are they not bankrupt?”