France's Brigitte Bardot cites plan to kill elephants, may seek Russian passport

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 11:23am

(CNN) -- Famed French actress and animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot will request Russian nationality Friday if plans to euthanize two elephants at a zoo in the French city of Lyon go ahead, her foundation said.

The move comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Russian citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu, who was angry about French plans to raise taxes.

Bardot's brief statement said that if those in power had the "cowardice and impudence" to kill the two elephants despite her foundation's offer to care for them, she has "taken the decision to request Russian nationality and quit this country that is nothing more an animal cemetery."

On Wednesday, she appealed to French President Francois Hollande to intervene on behalf of the Indian elephants, named Baby and Nepal, who are believed to have tuberculosis.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien, the actress said that the former circus elephants could be helped with the right veterinary care and that the foundation could help find them a more suitable place to live.

The Tete d'Or zoo, established in Lyon in 1865, has about 1,000 animals in its care and runs a number of breeding programs, according to its website.

It is not yet clear if any request by Bardot for Russian citizenship would be granted.

Depardieu's Russian citizenship was granted to him personally by presidential decree, Russia's official news agency RIA Novosti reported.

He and Putin are friends, and the actor has worked in Russia before. In a letter to journalists, Depardieu gushed with praise for the country and its society, RIA Novosti reported.

The movie star and businessman recently fled his native France in a high-profile protest of government plans for a tax hike on the richest, moving just across the border to the town of Nechin, Belgium.

France's socialist administration wants to raise taxes on citizens earning more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million) annually to 75%. The Russian Federation has a flat income tax rate of 13%, RIA Novosti reported.

France's constitutional court struck down the top tax rate measure at the end of last year, but Hollande has voiced his determination still to ask for more from "those who have the most."

-- CNN's Saskya Vandoorne contributed to this report.

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