The mayor of Sochi says there are no gay people in his city which is preparing to host the Winter Olympics next month.

Speaking to BBC Panorama’s John Sweeney, Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said: “We don’t have them in our town.”

Asked whether he was sure about this, he replied: “I’m not sure. I don’t bloody know them.”

“Our hospitality will be extended to everyone who respects the laws of the Russian Federation and who doesn’t impose their habits and their will on others, but yes everyone is welcome.”

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov laughed at the mayor’s response and wondered how Sochi’s several gay bars stayed in business.

Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin claimed gay people would be welcome in Sochi, providing they “just leave the children alone”.

“We don’t have a ban on non-traditional sexual relations,” he said. “We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia.”

In a subsequent interview, Putin denied accusations of homophobia, saying he was not prejudiced as he was on “friendly terms” with several people who are gay.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last week dismissed criticism of the country’s anti-gay laws, claiming not a single gay person in Russia has complained.