Pass the vodka! Gérard Depardieu granted Russian citizenship
The French movie star Gérard Depardieu says he is "pleased" to be granted Russian citizenship after the actor threatened to leave France because of a proposed 75 percent tax on millionaires.
The Kremlin issued a statement on Thursday stating the president, Vladimir Putin, signed a decree granting citizenship to Depardieu.
In an open letter broadcast on Russian TV station Pervyi Kanal on Thursday night, Depardieu confirmed he had applied for a Russian passport.
"Yes, I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia -- its people, its history, its writers," he wrote, adding he was impressed by Russia's "great democracy."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Depardieu was being rewarded "for his contribution to Russian culture and cinema".
The decision appears to give Depardieu a chance to pay a flat 13 percent income tax rate levied in Russia on anyone from billionaires to the poor.
Imposing a 75 percent on incomes over a million euros a year was one of French President François Hollande’s key election promises.
However, France’s Constitutional Council, the country’s highest court, found the rate to be unconstitutional and struck it down last week.
On Sunday, Depardieu said that decision changed nothing in his highly publicised and much debated decision to move out of France and possibly relocate to Belgium, where the tax rate on millionaires is lower.
The French government has vowed to push ahead with the tax and propose
a new measure that would conform with the constitution.
Putin said at his end-of-year press conference in December he was ready to offer the 64-year-old cinema veteran a Russian passport to resolve the row.
His comments initially generated snickers from reporters. But the Russian strongman quickly made clear that he was entirely serious.
"If Gerard really wants to have a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we can consider this issue resolved positively," Putin said at the time.
Depardieu has even been specially invited to take up Russian citizenship by the iron-fisted leader of Chechnya, the scene of two brutal post-Soviet wars that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
A Chechen spokesman said on Thursday the invitation from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was still open.
"We confirm: if Depardieu wants to live in the Chechen Republic, this will be received as joyful news," spokesman Alvi Karimov told Moscow Echo radio.
"He will receive all the conditions required for a good life and creative work," the Chechen spokesman said.
The English and French Wikipedia sites variously mentioned Depardieu as “a Russian actor”, then “a Franco-Russian actor” as soon as the decision was announced.