A French furore over the apparent departure into tax exile in Russia by flamboyant film actor Gérard Depardieu lurched into French farce on Friday when Brigitte Bardot, silver screen sex symbol of the 1960s, threatened to follow him into the bear’s embrace.

Ms Bardot’s concern was not President François Hollande’s eye-watering tax regime but her anger over the fate of Baby and Nepal, two elephants in Lyon zoo set to be put down because they have tuberculosis.

A longtime campaigner for animal rights – and sometime supporter of the far-right National Front party – Ms Bardot announced in a communique that if the beasts were not saved: “I have taken the decision to request Russian nationality to flee a country that has become nothing but an animal graveyard.”