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A Russian Company Took Down A Huge iPhone Sculpture Because Tim Cook Is Gay

The company said the iPhone was now "gay propaganda."

Posted on November 3, 2014, at 11:36 a.m. ET

Updated — 5:41pm:

Back in January 2013, a Russian company called ZEFS put up a sculpture outside a St. Petersburg university devoted to the iPhone, the love of Russian hipsters everywhere.

Courtesy of ZEFS press service

On Friday, a day after Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an essay saying he was gay, ZEFS took the sculpture down. In a statement sent around on Monday, it said the iPhone was now "public propaganda for sodomy."

Courtesy of ZEFS press service

“After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called for sodomy, the sculpture was dismantled in line with Russia’s federal law protecting children from information that propagandizes the rejection of traditional family values,” the statement said.

Courtesy of ZEFS press service

The statement cited Maxim Dolgopolov, the head of ZEFS, as saying everyone should stop using the iPhone, which, he said, was more dangerous than cigarettes or drugs.

Courtesy of ZEFS press service

"Now, when it's clear that iPhones are more dangerous than cigarettes or drugs, when in addition to its technology this brand becomes a symbol for sodomistic sin, reasonable people in the world will start rejecting Apple products en masse," he said.

“Since the public sodomy propaganda from the head of Apple, the sculpture now carries two meanings: antagonistic to our Russian culture and to Russian law,” Dolgopolov said, explaining his decision to dismantle it.

Courtesy of ZEFS press service

ZEFS didn’t stop there. It also said the revelations about Apple by Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower now living in Russia, also encouraged its decision to remove the sculpture.

The Guardian / Reuters

"What's more, in light of recent revelations of former NSA agent Edward Snowden, it is known that Apple's technology practically spies on its users around the world, informing US security services about them," the statement said.

A Russian MP had already suggested banning Cook from Russia for life because he is gay. St. Petersburg, Russia's cultural capital, has been at the forefront of Russia's campaign against LGBT rights.

Robert Galbraith / Reuters

Russian website Life News, which maintains close ties to the security services, had video of the dismantling operation. Later, Russia Today, the Kremlin-owned propaganda network, ran the footage too:

View this video on YouTube

Russian news agency TASS reported Monday, however, that the whole thing was a scam.

The report cited an official at the ITMO university, which hosted the sculpture, as saying it was simply being renovated.

"There's an official letter from ZEFS saying they're dismantling it for renovation," Kirill Alexandrov, the head of the university's public relations department, said, TASS reported.

Ivan Katukov, who emailed the press release around on behalf of ZEFS, declined to address the discrepancy directly when contacted by BuzzFeed News.

"Today there will be another press release with clarification from ZEFS," Katukov said in an email.

Later Monday,, a respected news site based in St. Petersburg also said it was a stunt, in an article headlined "How to make PR from a renovation."

But Katukov doubled down, sending another press release to BuzzFeed News denying that the removal of the iPhone sculpture was part of a planned renovation. The statement confirmed that ZEFS had sent a letter to the university, but said it did so because the university would only allow the removal of the statue on Thursday in exchange for a letter saying it would be returned to its place following a renovation.

It said that the fate of the sculpture would be decided at a Dec. 1 forum and said the leadership of the company was leaning towards the sculpture's total destruction. "The public destruction of this symbol of our blind and false faith in the legend of the greatness of the programmer Steve Jobs." It called Cook's essay the "final straw."

"As was revealed following the disclosures of Edward Snowden, this legend — and the company itself — turned out to be a product of the US secret services."

The mystery continues.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.