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Depardieu meets with Putin, receives Russian passport

French actor Gérard Depardieu met President Vladimir Putin and received his Russian passport on Saturday after Putin granted him citizenship so that he could escape France’s proposed 75% wealth tax on incomes over €1 million.

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French actor Gérard Depardieu arrived in Russia on Saturday and met with President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin has announced. The movie star has been granted citizenship so he can avoid paying France's proposed 75% wealth tax on income over €1 million.

Depardieu "was handed his passport", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, after earlier announcing that Depardieu had arrived for a private visit at Putin's residence in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.

'Surreal images' of Depardieu on Russian news

The "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Green Card" actor bought a house across the border in Belgium last year to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires planned by France's Socialist President Francois Hollande, but said he could also seek tax exile elsewhere.

Depardieu, 63, had told friends he was considering three options to escape France's new tax regime: settling in Belgium, relocating to Montenegro, where he has a business, or moving to Russia, French daily Le Monde reported in December.

Putin then said that Depardieu would be welcome in Russia, which has a flat income tax rate of 13 percent, compared to the 75% on income over one million euros ($1.32 million) that Hollande wants to levy in France.

Shaun Walker, Russia correspondent for The Independent, told FRANCE 24 that Depardieu was welcomed like a prince. “He said that he is planning to learn Russian…that it’s not just empty talk, he really does plan to live in Saransk and tell the world what a great place Mordovia is to live,” he said.

Depardieu is well known in Russia, where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns. He worked in the country in 2011 on a film about the eccentric Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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