MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu, who recently renounced his French citizenship, can count on getting a Russian passport if he wants one.
Le Monde quoted the actor, who has recently settled in the Belgian border town of Nechin, as saying on Wednesday that three countries have already offered him citizenship: Belgium, Montenegro and Russia. “Putin has already sent me a Russian passport,” Depardieu joked.
“If Gerard really wants to have a Russian passport or a residence permit, then he can consider the matter settled,” Putin said on Thursday.
Depardieu’s decision to settle in Belgium came ahead of the Socialist government’s planned implementation of a 75 percent tax rate on annual earnings above $1.30 million. By comparison, Russia has a fixed 13 percent income tax.
The actor’s decision prompted Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to accuse him of moving to another country to avoid France's hefty income tax. Ayrault called him a “pathetic” character; while the minister of labor, Michel Sapin, said the actor was suffering “personal degeneration.”
The 63-year-old actor said in an open letter in Le Journal du Dimanche on December 15 that he had left because the government thinks "that success, creativity, talent, in fact, being different, must be punished.”
He said he had never evaded taxes and had already paid $190 million to the state over 45 years, including on his 2012 income.
Putin said he knows “for sure” that the actor, whom Ayrault accused of acting unpatriotically by avoiding taxes, is a true French patriot.
“I understand Gerard Depardieu’s feelings. But I should say that though he stated… that he considers himself a European and a citizen of the world, I know for sure, since we have warm, personal and friendly relationship, that he considers himself a Frenchman,” Putin said.
Depardieu, who has appeared in more than 170 films and has won numerous awards, has also made headlines over several embarrassing episodes caused mainly by his love of drink.
Russia’s Federal Migration Service said on Thursday it had received no application from Depardieu so far.