Russia has granted citizenship to French film star Gerard Depardieu following the fallout of his battle with the French government over taxes.
“Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to France’s Gerard Depardieu,” the Kremlin said in a brief statement on Thursday. Russia grants the president authority over “issues of citizenship of the Russian Federation and the granting of asylum.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if Depardieu had accepted or would accept the citizenship offer.
Depardieu, often called France’s most beloved actor and its most recognizable name abroad, has been at the center of a big media debate and controversy since he threatened to turn in his French passport in protest of a 75 percent tax on income over $1.3 million (€1 million) instituted by French President Francois Hollande.
Depardieu announced his plans to move to a small Belgian village with walking distance of the French border last month to escape the tax. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called him “pathetic” for the planned move, resulting in Depardieu vowing to give up his citizenship. Screen legends Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve to quickly jumped to his defense in French media.
France’s high court then overturned the tax plan, calling it unconstitutional just three days before it was to go into effect on Jan. 1. But Hollande quickly announced plans to address the court’s concerns and reinstate it during the next legislative session. Upon hearing the news Sunday, Depardieu still slammed the Hollande government and said the last-minute reprieve “changes nothing” for him. “Let them talk,” he said of the ongoing political chatter.
Depardieu claimed at the time that he had at least three countries that would happily grant him legal status. “Putin has sent me a passport,” he said. However, the Kremlin initially denied any such move.
"This must have been a joke," Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in mid-December. However at a press conference on Dec. 20, Putin responded favorably to questions about the Oscar-nominated actor’s status. “If Gerard wants to have a residence permit or a passport, it’s a done deal,” he said.
Depardieu has been notably close to Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and was the guest of honor at his birthday celebration in Grozny last October. "If the country's leadership decides in favor of granting [Depardieu] Russian citizenship, we will be glad to create deserved conditions for the great cultural figure in our republic," Kadyrov said later.
Depardieu is well-known in Russia where he has appeared in ad campaigns and shot the film “Rasputine” in St. Petersberg last year. Russia has a flat income tax of 13 percent.
Depardieu still plans to relocate to his Belgian chateau, and his Paris mansion remains on the market for $85 million.