4 Jan 2013

Actor Gerard Depardieu granted Russian citizenship

12:02 pm on 4 January 2013

Russia has awarded citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu who has threatened to give up his French passport to protest against planned tax rises on the rich by the Socialist government.

In a brief statement on its website, the Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the necessary decree.

Mr Putin's action has given him the chance to highlight Russia's income tax rate of only 13%, the BBC reports.

The actor recently announced he would give up his French passport after the government criticised his decision to move abroad to avoid higher taxes.

In December, Mr Putin said he would be happy to welcome him in Russia.

"I'm sure the French authorities did not want to offend Mr Depardieu. But if he'd like to have a Russian passport, consider it settled," Mr Putin said during his annual news conference.

Under France's civil code, dual citizenship is permitted, but it is unlawful to be stateless. A person must obtain another nationality before giving up French citizenship.

In a letter read out on Russian television, Gerard Depardieu said that he had made a formal application for Russian citizenship and was delighted that it had now been granted, thanks to the intervention of President Putin.

"I adore your country, your history, your writers," the actor said in the letter.

His highly publicised tax row began last year after Socialist President Francois Hollande said he planned to raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than €1 million.

Lambasting the government for punishing "success, creation and talent", Mr Depardieu announced in early December that he would move to Belgium. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault retaliated by calling the decision "shabby".

Although the Constitutional Council struck down Mr Hollande's tax rise proposal on Sunday, Mr Depardieu said this did not change the situation "one bit".

The BBC reports the situation is extremely serious in its implications for France's international image. President Hollande held a telephone conversation with the actor on 1 January. According to a friend of Mr Depardieu, the president wanted to know more about the actor's motives.

Mr Depardieu told him that it was not the money that was the main issue, but he was disgusted by the way France had "spat on initiative and success".

Mr Depardieu, described by Vladimir Putin as a successful businessman and friend, has developed close ties with Russia. He currently appears in an advertisement for Sovietsky Bank's credit card and is prominently featured on the bank's home page.