French Actor, After Leaving France Due to High Taxes, Gets Russian Passport

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010 file photo Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, attend the Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg. Gerard Depardieu, the French actor who has been sparring with his native country over taxes, has been granted Russian citizenship. A brief announcement on the Kremlin website said President Vladimir Putin signed the citizenship grant on Thursday Jan. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool)
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French actor Gerard Depardieu flashed his new Russian passport for reporters on Sunday (January 6) minutes after getting off of a plane in the Russian city of Saransk.

Depardieu visited Saransk, about 615 km (383 miles) east of Moscow, a day after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort town Sochi and receiving the passport, after he left his homeland to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires.

The "Cyrano de Bergerac" actor, who is a popular figure in Russia, was greeted at the snowy airport by women in traditional Russian folk dress and a crush of journalists, and Russian state television broadcasters showed Depardieu in several other spots around town.

He was shown being presented to applauding residents at a local theatre and dressed in a traditional embroidered Russian shirt; touring a local museum and visiting the monument to 18th Century peasant revolt leader Yemelyan Pugachyov.

Putin signed a decree on Thursday (January 3) granting Russian citizenship to Depardieu, who objected to French Socialist president Francois Hollande's plan to impose the 75 percent tax rate. His decision to quit France had prompted accusations of national betrayal.

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

Putin said last month that Depardieu would be welcome in Russia, which has a flat income tax rate of 13 percent, compared to the 75 percent on income over 1 million euros ($1.30 million) that Hollande wants to levy in France. He offered Depardieu the Russian passport saying he had developed warm ties with the actor - even though they had rarely met.

Depardieu's best known international film is "Green Card", about a poor French immigrant who enters a sham marriage so he can stay in the United States.

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