Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta says he will raise the issue of Russia’s anti-gay laws during his trip to the Winter Olympics this week.

Confirming that he will be attending Friday’s opening ceremony, Mr Letta said: “At Sochi I will reiterate Italy’s opposition to any discriminatory norm against gays, inside or outside sports”.

The comments are encouraging. In January, Italian International Olympic Committee Mario Pescante said it was “absurd” for the US to include openly gay athletes in its official delegation for the Winter Olympics.

Last month, Downing Street announced that UK Prime Minister David Cameron had turned down Vladimir Putin’s invitation to attend the Winter Olympics because he was too busy.

Downing Street added that there was “no tradition” for British prime ministers to attend the event.

Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian competitor, Lord Coe and Culture Secretary Maria Miller will lead the British delegation.

The mayor of Sochi, the Russian city which is hosting the Winter Olympics from 7 February, has said there are no gay people in his city.

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

It was revealed today that a teenage girl in Russia has been accused by authorities of breaking anti-gay legislation, with officials declaring her to be a person of “non-traditional sexual orientation”.