UK & World News
Putin Gives Depardieu Russian Citizenship
Russian president Vladimir Putin has granted Gerard Depardieu Russian citizenship in a new twist in the saga of the film star's tax row with his native France.
The Kremlin issued brief a statement saying: "Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to France's Gerard Depardieu."
Depardieu, 64, said on Sunday that a decision by France's highest court to strike down a 75% tax rate on millionaires would change nothing in his decision to move out of France.
The government has vowed to push ahead with the tax rate, which would apply to incomes over a million euros (£810,600) a year, and propose a new measure that would conform with the constitution.
Russia has a flat income tax rate of 13%.
Depardieu had previously mentioned moving to Belgium, although he is a frequent guest of Moscow cinema festivals and other Russian celebrity events.
His move to avoid France's wealth taxes was dubbed "pathetic" by the French Prime Minister last month.
Jean-Marc Ayrault criticised the actor's reported decision to buy a home in Belgium - which does not have a wealth tax - close to the border with France.
"Going just over the border, I find that fairly pathetic. Being a Frenchman means loving your country and helping it to get back on its feet," Mr Ayrault told France 2 television.
In a press conference before Christmas Mr Putin said he would offer Depardieu a Russian passport, calling him a friend.
"If Gerard really wants to have a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we can consider this issue resolved positively," he said.
Depardieu has become the latest wealthy Frenchman after luxury magnate Bernard Arnault to look for shelter abroad following a series of tax increases by socialist president Francois Hollande.
Mr Arnault, the chief executive of luxury giant LVMH, caused an uproar by seeking to establish residency in Belgium - a move he said was not motivated by tax reasons.
The Cyrano de Bergerac star bought a house in the village of Nechin, where 27% of the population is made up of French nationals, local mayor Daniel Senesael told reporters.
The tax hikes have been welcomed by left-wingers who say the rich must do more to help redress the public finances.
Depardieu has made more than 150 films, among them the 1991 comedy Green Card about a man who enters into a marriage of convenience in order to get US residency.