6 Jan 2013

Depardieu in Russia to get passport

9:25 am on 6 January 2013

French actor Gerard Depardieu has arrived in Russia, where he has been granted citizenship and a private meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

A spokesperson for the Kremlin said Mr Depardieu may receive his new Russian passport personally from the president.

The actor announced he was seeking Russian citizenship after the French government criticised his decision to move abroad to avoid higher taxes, the BBC reports.

In December last year, Mr Putin had said he would be happy to welcome him to Russia, which has a flat 13% personal income tax rate.

The president will hold a private meeting with the actor in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Saturday, Mr Putin's spokesman said.

Earlier this week, Mr Putin signed the decree granting Russian citizenship to Mr Depardieu.

The actor responded by writing an open letter saying: "I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence."

He went on describe Russia as "a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby".

The actor's highly publicised tax row began last year after new President Francois Hollande said he would raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than €1 million. He accused the socialist government of punishing "success, creation and talent".

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Mr Depardieu's decision to move abroad was "shabby and unpatriotic".