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Brigitte Bardot threatens to spurn France, embrace Russia if 2 elephants killed

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
January 4, 2013 -- Updated 2049 GMT (0449 HKT)
(File photo) Animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot pictured here on February 28, 2001 in Romania.
(File photo) Animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot pictured here on February 28, 2001 in Romania.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brigitte Bardot says she will request Russian citizenship if two elephants are euthanized
  • She has urged President Hollande to save the elephants, thought to have tuberculosis
  • Her move comes on the heels of Gerard Depardieu's acceptance of a Russian passport
  • Depardieu is angry about French plans to raise taxes on its richest citizens

(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.

Read more: Will elephants still roam earth in 20 years?

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."

Putin gives Depardieu citizenship

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.

Read more: France's smash-and-grab tax laws will lead to 'brain drain'

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 council 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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