Comrade Depardieu? Putin Grants Actor Russian Citizenship

Photo: Flickr.com/World Economic Forum & Tom Lee Kelso

Photo: Flickr.com/World Economic Forum & Tom Lee Kelso

Following his highly publicized exit from his native France, Academy Award-nominated French actor Gérard Depardieu can now send love from Russia as the country’s newest citizen. On January 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin—a close friend of Depardieu’s—signed a decree granting citizenship to the Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) star.

Depardieu’s expatriation follows a proposed French tax hike on the super rich (recently ruled unconstitutional) wherein anything earned over €1 million a year would be taxed at 75%.  Depardieu’s decision to leave France in favor of neighboring Belgium was called “pathetic” by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on national television, prompting the indignant actor to declare he would renounce his French citizenship in protest.

“I refuse to be described as ‘pathetic,’” wrote Depardieu in a December 16 piece in France’s Journal du Dimanche.  “Putin has already offered me a passport!” the star later joked.

“If Gerard Depardieu really wants to have Russian residence permit or a Russian passport, we can consider the issue resolved positively,” responded the Russian leader at a press conference the following day.  He officiated Depardieu’s citizenship exactly two weeks later.

“Yes, I made this request for a [Russian] passport and I am pleased that it was accepted,” Depardieu wrote in a letter aired by a Russian television channel.

“I love your country, Russia, [I love] her people, her history, her writers.  I love to make movies here where I love to film with your actors like Vladimir Mashkov.  I love your culture, your intelligence. […] In Russia, one lives well. Not necessarily in Moscow, which is a metropolis too large for me.  I prefer the countryside [to Moscow] and I know some marvelous spots in Russia.  I feel good at the edge of the birch forests. […]  I am going to learn Russian. I have even spoken of all of this to my president, François Hollande.  He knows that I very much like your president Vladimir Putin, and that the feeling is mutual.  And I told him that Russia is a great democracy, and that it is not a country where a prime minister would address a citizen as ‘pathetic.’ […] Slava Rossii [Glory to Russia]!”

RTL reported that Belgian authorities have responded to Depardieu’s citizenship in a measured manner, quoting president of the Belgian commission of naturalization, Georges Dallemagne, as saying:

The Russian citizenship of Gerard Depardieu would not change anything, technically, in terms of his application for naturalization in Belgium. But […] The Committee will examine the opportunity to grant him Belgian nationality and the motivations [of such a decision]. His request would seem less compelling, less important… One does not collect nationalities.”

It is unclear whether or not Depardieu, described by Agence France-Presse as “a frequent guest of the Moscow celebrity circuit” who enjoys “cult status [in Russia] among many movie buffs,” will choose to spend time in Russia.  Should he spend six months out of every year there, he will enjoy a tax rate of 13% as opposed to Belgium’s 50% tax on millionaires.  Depardieu has indicated he will not return to France despite the overturn of the proposed 75% tax.

“People in the West do not know the details of our tax system,” Russian senior cabinet member Dmitry Rogozin tweeted on Thursday.  “But when they find out, we should expect a mass migration of rich Europeans to Russia,” Rogozin said.

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