Actor Gerard Depardieu, who's currently engaged in a battle over taxes in his native France, has declared Russia to be "a great democracy," after Russian President Vladimir Putin granted Depardieu citizenship.
French newspaper Le Monde has published a letter purportedly written by the actor to a Russian journalist, in which Depardieu declares his love for Putin and praises Russia's democratic virtues. Also read: Gerard Depardieu's Next Tax-Dodging Stop: Russia? In the letter, Depardieu says that he's informed French President Francois Hollande is well aware of the actor's fondness for his future home. "He knows that I love your President Vladimir Putin and the feeling is mutual," the letter reads. "And I told him that Russia was a great democracy, and that it was not a country where a prime minister addressed a citizen [as] pathetic." Also read: Gerard Depardieu Takes the Piss in Parody of Airline Incident (Video) That last line is a reference to French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who slammed the "Green Card" star as "pathetic" for his tax protest. According to Le Monde, the letter concludes, "Glory to Russia" and "Thank you!" Depardieu has railed against a proposed tax hike in France that would raise the tax rate on income over $1 million to 75 percent, from its current rate of 41 percent. In late 2012, the actor established residency in a Belgian town bordering France. "I have never killed anyone, I don't think I've been unworthy, I've paid €145 million (about $190 million) in taxes over 45 years," Depardieu seethed in an open letter to Ayrault in December. In contrast to France's tax structure, Russia boasts a flat rate of 13 percent. The Kremlin announced in a statement Thursday that Depardieu, 64, was granted citizenship by Putin. "In accordance with Article 89(a) of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the President ordered to satisfy an application for citizenship of the Russian Federation by Gerard Xavier Depardieu, who was born in 1948 in France," the statement reads. As for where Depardieu might reside in Russia, he's ruled out Moscow as "a megalopolis too big" for his tastes, but suggests he might set himself up "at the edge of the birch forests."