Putin makes French film star Depardieu a Russian

Thu Jan 3, 2013 5:04pm EST
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By Alexei Anishchuk and Megan Davies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted citizenship to Gerard Depardieu, the French movie star whose decision to quit his homeland to avoid a tax hike prompted accusations of national betrayal.

The "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Green Card" actor bought a house across the border in Belgium last year to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires planned by France's Socialist President Francois Hollande, but said he could also seek tax exile elsewhere.

Putin said last month that Depardieu would be welcome in Russia, which has a flat income tax rate of 13 percent, compared to the 75 percent on income over 1 million euros ($1.32 million) that Hollande wants to levy in France.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu's decision to seek Belgian residency "pathetic" and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a bloated national debt.

"I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," the actor retorted in a letter published by a newspaper, saying he would hand in his passport and social security card.

Depardieu is well known in Russia, where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns. He worked in the country in 2011 on a film about the eccentric Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

French media teased Depardieu, showing clips of the actor's Russian work that were unknown at home, including the Rasputin film and a commercial for ketchup.

Magazine L'Express put together a slideshow on its website of other countries that he could flee to, suggesting Italy where he has starred in commercials for Barilla pasta, or Japan, given that the actor owns a Japanese food shop in Paris.   Continued...

French actor Gerard Depardieu (L) speaks with Vladimir Putin (R), then Russian Prime Minister, during a meeting in St.Petersburg in this December 11, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Pool/Files