French actor Gerard Depardieu (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov)President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to French film star and tax exile Gerard Depardieu, who is renouncing his French citizenship to search for an easier tax climate outside of his native country.The Academy Award-nominated Depardieu is a regular in Moscow. The actor made headlines across the world when he announced in late December that “Putin has already sent me a passport!” The statement was a joke, but it soon became reality.The day after the announcement, Putin told a press conference that the French bon vivant was a welcome guest in Russia: “If Gerard Depardieu really wants to have Russian residence permit or a Russian passport, we can consider the issue resolved positively.”Putin also said that he has long had “kind, friendly, personal relations” with the leading light of French cinema.On the morning of January 3, the Kremlin released a statement announcing that “Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to France’s Gerard Depardieu.” The 64-year-old actor said he was renouncing his French citizenship over the “insulting” accusations of tax evasion he faced after announcing plans to move to Belgium. “I don’t ask for approval, but I could at least be respected!” Depardieu wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “All those who have left France have not been insulted as I have been,” Depardieu said, referring to French Prime Minster Jean Marc Ayrault’s comment that the actor was “pathetic” for deciding to leave his native country.Last week, Depardieu confirmed he would stay in Belgium despite the fact that a French court struck down the proposed 75 percent income tax rate for the country’s wealthiest. The French government agreed to axe the notorious measure after it “failed to recognize equality before public burdens.”Depardieu earlier mentioned three countries ready to offer him residence: Belgium, where he recently bought a house; Montenegro, where he has friends and some businesses; and Russia, which has a flat 13 percent income tax rate and could become a tax haven for the actor.
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