Jan 6, 2013 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from The Telegraph: French film star Gerard Depardieu received a hug from President Vladimir Putin and a new Russian passport on Sunday after abandoning his homeland to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires.
Mr Putin dined with Depardieu on Saturday night at the presidential residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the Kremlin announced on Sunday.
Depardieu flew into Russia “on a private visit,” on Saturday evening. “Being in the country, he was presented with a Russian passport,” Mr Putin’s official spokesman told state-owned news agencies.
Depardieu received his Russian documents as details emerged of a furious argument he had with French president Francios Hollande earlier this month.
The actor has threatened to quit France for good over Mr Hollande’s plans for a 75 per cent tax rate on all earnings over one million euros.
But when Mr Hollande telephoned the actor on January 1 to “understand” the decision to leave, Depardieu accused him of “spitting on success”.
Depardieu’s friend Arnaud Frilley told France’s RTL radio: “The president called Gerard to ask if he was really serious about leaving France for good.
“Gerard told him it wasn’t the taxes themselves that sickened him, but he was sickened by the way France spits on success. At one point he got very annoyed.
“He also said he felt the way the media had treated him was terrible and that he needed to take a step back.
“But he did say that he would remain French in his heart and that he felt he was a kind of spokesman for all other successful people like him who had not spoken out.”
Depardieu appears to enjoy much warmer relations with the Russian president, telling Russian journalists that “I love your president Putin and that is reciprocated.”
A video of the meeting released by state television on yesterday morning showed the French actor gripping Mr Putin in a bear hug on arrival at the president’s black sea villa.
Depardieu is popular in Russia, where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns, including for ketchup. He also worked there in 2011 on a film about the Russian monk Grigory Rasputin, which he discussed with Mr Putin at their meeting.
Depardieu had previously joked about taking Russian citizenship in an interview with Le Monde in December. Mr Putin later said in his end of year press conference that “if he really wants it, the matter can be considered resolved positively”. He granted Russian citizenship to Depardieu in a surprise decree on January 3.
Over the weekend another French screen star, Brigit Bardot, vowed to follow Depardieu to Russia not over tax, but animal welfare.
The actress threatened to head for Russia if the French authorities allowed the euthanasia of two elephants at a zoo in Lyon who are suffering from tuberculosis.
“I have taken the decision to request Russian nationality to flee a country that has become nothing but an animal graveyard,” she said on Friday.
Depardieu could indeed make a significant tax saving from his new nationality. Personal income tax in Russia is pegged at a flat 13 per cent.
However, this rises to 30 per cent if less that 183 days are spent in the country.
The French actor not only has a Russian passport, but may soon have a Russian home.
Depardieu flew to Saransk, 390 miles from Moscow, on Sunday to visit the country’s only memorial to Yemelyan Pugachyov, the leader of a Cossack uprising in the 18th century who Depardieu has reportedly said he wants to play in an up coming film.
“I am very happy, it’s very beautiful here, beautiful and soulful people live here,” Interfax quoted the actor as saying after he was greeted by young women wearing national costumes and serving pancakes.
Local media reported that the regional governor may also be present the actor with keys to an apartment in the city – along with the official registration documents that any Russian citizen needs in order to navigate the country’s mind boggling bureaucracy.