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French actor Depardieu in Russia to receive new passport

January 05, 2013

Depardieu speaks with Vladimir Putin, then Russian Prime Minister, during a meeting in St.Petersburg in this December 11, 2010 file photo. — Reuters picDepardieu speaks with Vladimir Putin, then Russian Prime Minister, during a meeting in St.Petersburg in this December 11, 2010 file photo. — Reuters picMOSCOW, Jan 5 — French film star Gerard Depardieu has arrived in Russia to receive a new Russian passport after a public spat in his homeland over his efforts to avoid a new 75 per cent income tax, local media said today.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Russian citizenship to Depardieu, a popular figure in Russia who objected to the new tax on millionaires planned by France’s socialist government.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin will hold a private meeting with Depardieu in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this evening.

“It is not ruled out that during this meeting Depardieu will be granted a passport,” RIA news agency quoted Peskov as saying.

Radio Ekho Moskvy said both Putin, a former KGB spy, and his younger protege, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, were in Sochi for Russia’s long New Year’s holidays ending on January 9.

In Russia, Depardieu has appeared in many advertising campaigns, including for ketchup, and worked there in 2011 on a film about the eccentric Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

Depardieu, star of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Green Card” was also among the Western celebrities invited in 2012 to celebrate the birthday of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader.

Russia has a flat-rate income tax of 13 per cent compared to 75 per cent on income over €1 million (RM4 million) that French President Francois Hollande wants to introduce. Depardieu has bought a house in Belgium to establish Belgian residency in protest at Hollande’s tax plans.

Hollande’s original proposal was struck down by France’s Constitutional Court in December, but the socialist president pledged to press ahead with a redrafted tax on the wealthy.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu’s decision to seek Belgian residency “pathetic” and unpatriotic, prompting an angry reply from the actor.

Since the Cold War, Moscow has often expressed support for Westerners at odds with their governments - a way to counter what Putin says is hypocritical Western criticism of the Kremlin’s treatment of its own citizens.

Putin, accused by the opposition at home of cracking down on his critics, has in the past spoken of good relations with France.

But Moscow suffered a blow in November when it was forced to suspend its bid to build an Orthodox church with five domes in the heart of Paris, whose mayor called the plan “ostentatious”.

A spokesman for Depardieu in Paris could not immediately be reached for comment. — Reuters 

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