MOSCOW, January 4 (RIA Novosti) – Legendary French actor Gerard Depardieu said he is glad to be granted Russian citizenship, adding that he loves Russia and promising to study the Russian language.
“Yes, I have applied for a passport and I am glad my request has been granted,” Depardieu said in a letter to Russian journalists posted on the website of Russian federal TV Channel 1.
The Kremlin press office reported on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to grant Depardieu Russian citizenship.
“In accordance with clause “a” of article 89 of the Russian Constitution, the application for Russian citizenship by Gerard Xavier Depardieu born in France in 1948 has been granted,” the Kremlin press office said in a statement.
Depardieu has recently renounced his French citizenship and settled in the Belgian border town of Nechin. His decision to settle in Belgium came ahead of the Socialist government’s initially planned implementation of a 75 percent tax rate on annual earnings above $1.3 million. By comparison, Russia has a fixed 13 percent income tax.
Putin said in late December that Depardieu could count on receiving a Russian passport if he wanted one. “If Gerard really wants to have a Russian passport or a residence permit, then he can consider the matter settled.”
In his letter to Russian journalists, Depardieu also said: “I adore your country, Russia, your people, your history, your writers… I adore your culture, your way of thinking.”
The actor said that if he were to live in Russia, he would like to reside in a small village rather than in a big city like Moscow.
Depardieu also praised Putin.
Depardieu, 64, who has appeared in more than 170 films and has won numerous awards, has also made headlines over several embarrassing episodes caused mainly by his love of drink.
In 2011, he starred as Grigory Rasputin in a Russian-French production about the controversial mystic employed by Tsar Nicholas II to heal his only son.
The French actor is no stranger in Russia. Earlier this year Depardieu visited the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, where he attended a celebration of the 194th anniversary of its capital, Grozny, with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Back then Kadyrov invited Depardieu to live there. On Thursday Kadyrov praised Putin’s decision in a Twitter post and reiterated his invitation to Depardieu.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also welcomed the gesture saying that it might attract more well-off foreigners to Russia. “The West knows little about our tax system. When they learn more, we should expect a mass migration of rich Europeans to Russia,” Rogozin wrote on his Twitter.
Georges Dallemagne, the head of the naturalization commission of the Chamber of Representatives in the Belgian parliament, said if Depardieu accepts the Russian passport he can still receive a residence permit in Belgium.
“As a Russian he could certainly remain in Belgium, he would possibly need the necessary visas but for a short period he could stay here,” Dallemagne told Reuters on Thursday. “He would need to request a residency permit for longer stays but as a Russian he should be able to get that. It depends on certain factors.” Depardieu hasn’t applied for Belgium citizenship yet.