French actor Depardieu in Russia to meet Putin

Sat Jan 5, 2013 1:48pm EST
 
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By Gabriela Baczynska and Alexei Anishchuk

MOSCOW (Reuters) - French film star Gerard Depardieu arrived in Russia on Saturday to meet President Vladimir Putin, who granted him citizenship after a public spat in France over his efforts to avoid a potential 75 percent income tax.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two would meet in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Putin was spending part of the 10-day New Year and Russian Orthodox Christmas holiday.

He said it was possible Putin would hand Depardieu his Russian passport during the meeting.

"It is a private meeting, we will not be releasing any other details," Peskov said by phone.

Russian media quoted him as saying the meeting would take place on Saturday. Depardieu's spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Thursday, the Kremlin announced that Putin had signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to Depardieu, who objected to Socialist president Francois Hollande's plan to impose a 75 percent tax rate on millionaires.

Depardieu is a popular figure in Russia, where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns, including for ketchup. He also worked there in 2011 on a film about the eccentric Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

The star of the movies "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Green Card" was also among the Western celebrities invited in 2012 to celebrate the birthday of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed strongman leader of Russia's Chechnya province who is accused by rights groups of crushing dissent.   Continued...

 
French actor Gerard Depardieu enters his home in Paris December 19, 2012. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier