An unlikely friendship between Amur the tiger and Timur the goat -- who was originally meant to be the big cat's lunch -- became a viral sensation last year in Russia and beyond.
Now a Siberian lawyer is interpreting the newly acquired popularity of the animals and their home, the Primorsky Safari Park in the Russian Far East, differently.
Aleksei Krestyanov says that Amur and Timur are a mouthpiece promoting "gay propaganda" to an audience of children – which is banned under a law signed by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 that barred the spread of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
Krestyanov wants the manager of the safari park to be prosecuted.
"There is homosexuality in various forms among animals and among people, but in the Russian Federation a law against this propaganda was adopted," the lawyer said.
According to Krestyanov, a partner at a law firm in Novosibirsk, the two animals living together in the same cage are showing children that homosexuality is acceptable, because – in his estimation -- kids don’t differentiate between the world of people and the world of animals.
"Adults understand…that those are not people," he said. "But for children animals are friends, they have names, they speak in a human language. Many cartoons are made in a way that children believe that animals are just like them," he told RFE/RL over the phone. He said Timur and Amur’s friendship is "concealed" propaganda.
Despite speculation on the Internet, there has been no evidence of anything more intimate than a bromance between Amur and Timur, whose environment has been watched by web-cameras around the clock.
Appeal To Prosecutors
But, in an appeal submitted to the Russian Prosecutor- General’s Office through an online form on January 27, Krestyanov stated that Timur and Amur "could have a negative impact on the formation of a child’s personality, including in terms of its sexual identity. [It] could generate interest in nontraditional sexual relations."
Now the prosecutor's office has 30 days to study the appeal and make a decision about whether the safari-park manager should be prosecuted.
The 2013 law, part of a push by Putin to promote what he has called traditional Russian values, drew sharp criticism from LGBT activists, human rights advocates, and Western governments.
Those found guilty could face fines from 4,000 rubles to 1 million rubles. ($53 to $13,200)
Rights advocates in Russia and abroad say that the law encourages antigay discrimination and violence. Its adoption coincided with a spike of violence and harassment of LGBT people across the country.
Krestyanov says the case of the tiger and the goat is clear.
"Everybody is talking about this. How can they not see it?" he says.
Shame In A Name?
The lawyer’s issues with the safari park management go beyond his perceptions of the two animals’ sexuality.
He also says the phrase "goat Timur" is offensive to all men named Timur, since the Russian word for goat, "kozyol," can also mean "jerk."
"The word ‘kozyol’ is considered vituperative. People feel discomfort, great stress, because they are mocked," he told RFE/RL. "People with that name are ready to change it now."
The lawyer decided to take action against Amur and Timur after joining the ranks of the All-Russia People’s Front, a group launched by Putin in 2011 to broaden his support network.
"I was urged to do something useful -- fight corruption or something else. I looked around and that’s what I saw," Krestyanov said.
Amur and Timur have been living together since November 2015.
But they were separated, at least temporarily, after a scuffle on January 29. Timur stepped on the tiger, the predator attacked, and the goat was moved to a different cage to recover.
Krestyanov told RFE/RL he saw this as a positive development.