Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has urged Russia to protect the rights of LGBT citizens following concerns about gay athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Speaking exclusively to PinkNews.co.uk, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “It is just totally out of order it is unacceptable in this day and age for any athlete to feel in any way intimidated or certainly to be discriminated against because of their sexuality.

“Those days should be long behind us now and for those countries and those governments and regimes who don’t see it that way I think they have to move with the times.”

Mr Clegg added: “If you are an athlete you are an athlete regardless of your sexuality.”

The 2014 Winter Olympics takes place in the Russian city of Sochi in February.

Concerns have been expressed by human rights organisations over the deteriorating situation for LGBT people in Russia, and some have called for a boycott of the Games.

It’s feared that the authorities in Sochi may seek to arrest, deport or possibly fine LGBT athletes if they are deemed to be “promoting” LGBT expression.

Pride House, an Olympic LGBT event, has already been banned from the Winter Olympics by the Russian Ministry of Justice.

The arrival of draconian homophobic censorship laws has been coupled with an increase in homophobic attacks and killings.

Last Sunday, five gay rights activists were detained for holding a demonstration in Moscow.

In June, Labour MEP Michael Cashman said “hate speech” from President Vladimir Putin and others had resulted in the “barbaric killing of gay men”.

President Putin in July signed a ban preventing foreign same-sex couples adopting children into law but denied it amounted to homophobic discrimination.

Earlier this week, Nick Clegg told PinkNews.co.uk that he hoped London would be successful in its bid to host the 2018 Gay Games.

The cities shortlisted alongside London are Paris and Limerick. The Federation will make its decision on 7 October.

High profile backers of the bid include Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow.