Agence France Presse
Published — Sunday 6 January 2013
Last update 6 January 2013 4:48 am
MOSCOW: French actor Gerard Depardieu arrived in Russia yesterday to meet with President Vladimir Putin after getting Russian citizenship to avoid paying higher taxes in France.
“Mr. Depardieu arrived in Sochi as part of a private visit. We expect him to meet Vladimir Putin tonight,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP, adding that it was possible that Depardieu, 64, would receive his new passport during the meeting.
Putin on Thursday granted Depardieu citizenship, following the announcement by the disgruntled French movie star that he intended to quit his home country to avoid paying a new millionaires’ tax.
The Kremlin’s move — and subsequent comments by Depardieu professing his love for Putin and calling Russia “a great democracy” — sparked amusement, disbelief and a heavy dose of irony inside Russia.
“He is impressed by our democracy — he has completely lost his marbles,” wrote one Facebook user, Vladimir Sokolov.
Russia’s move to grant citizenship to the star of Cyrano de Bergerac, Green Card and the Asterix and Obelix series was the latest volley in a highly publicized row between the actor and the French government over its attempt to raise the tax rate on earnings of more than one million euros ($ 1.3 million) to 75 percent.
When Depardieu first announced he would leave the country to avoid the tax, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branded the move “pathetic”.
Depardieu, who can easily earn up to two million euros per film and who has extensive business interests in France and elsewhere, will qualify for the 13 percent tax rate if he spends at least six months of the year in Russia.