Tax exile: President Putin gives Depardieu a Russian passport

Actor Gerard Depardieu and Russia's President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Klimentyev)

Actor Gerard Depardieu and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Klimentyev)

President Vladimir Putin has handed Gerard Depardieu a new Russian passport, officially making the French actor a citizen of Russia. The 64-year-old millionaire and bon vivant renounced his French citizenship to avoid paying high taxes.

Depardieu visited the Russian city of Sochi and held a brief meeting with Putin, presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. During the meeting, Putin and Depardieu discussed the upcoming Russian release of the actor’s film about Grigory Rasputin.

On Thursday, President Putin signed a decree granting the French actor Russian citizenship.

Depardieu expressed his thanks to his new compatriots in letter published in the media, in which he praised the cultural, social and political virtues of his new home and vowed to learn Russian.

In his letter the actor called Russia a “country with a great democracy”, which triggered a wave of criticism and irony from users on Russian social networks.

French politicians mocked Depardieu’s plans as an unbelievably “foolish thing”.  

The actor made headlines across the world when he announced in late December that “Putin has already sent me a passport!” The statement turned out to be just a joke, but did not influence Putin’s decision. The next day the President told the media that the French bon vivant, with whom he has long had “kind, friendly, personal relations”, would be welcome in Russia.

The actor decided to renounce his French citizenship over “insulting” accusations of tax evasion from Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault after announcing his plans to move to Belgium.

The Prime Minster called Depardieu`s decision to leave France “pathetic”. 

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