MOSCOW (Reuters) - Actor Gerard Depardieu has registered as a resident of the provincial Russian city of Saransk, where he plans to open a restaurant far from the high taxes of his French homeland, Russian media said on Saturday.
The 64-year-old star of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Green Card" was in Saransk on Saturday to receive a residency stamp in his newly-issued Russian passport, at a lavish ceremony attended by local officials and singers in traditional folk costumes.
Depardieu first moved to Belgium last year to avoid a planned 75-percent tax on millionaires and has since continued east to Russia, where President Vladimir Putin granted him citizenship in January.
Depardieu has said he did not leave France for tax reasons. Russia, where the actor has appeared in advertising campaigns for ketchup and a film about the monk Grigory Rasputin, has a flat tax of 13 percent on income.
"For me registration here isn't a formality. I intend to come here often," Depardieu said after the ceremony, adding he planned to open "an eatery, where working people will go to snack".
Saransk, which largely consists of run-down Soviet apartment blocks, is an industrial centre noted for its machine building and chemical industries. Depardieu used to live in a mansion on the Left Bank of the Seine in Paris.
Russian media cited the region's press minister as saying Depardieu also planned to build a small house in the countryside. For now, Depardieu is registered to reside in an apartment in the city owned by relatives of a friend.
Located on the river Volga some 620 km (390 miles) east of Moscow, Saransk is the capital of Mordovia, a republic in central Russia that was quick to try and persuade Depardieu to set up residence. In January, Depardieu turned down an offer to become the region's Minister of Culture.
France's Constitutional Council last month blocked the planned 75 percent tax rate on income over 1 million euros ($1.32 million) in December, but the government has said it will press ahead with a redrafted tax on the wealthy.
Reporting by Jason Bush; Editing by Jason Webb