“I like this man very much, he is a very powerful political activist,” the French actor told the state-run Rossiya television. “He has political wisdom.”
Dépardieu then delved into the details of Russia‘s political scene, saying the opposition was impotent. “The Russian opposition has no programme, nothing,” he said, echoing the words of Kremlin officials. “There are very smart people there, like [the chess grandmaster Garry] Kasparov, but that’s good for chess – politics is much more complicated.”
Putin awarded Depardieu a Russian passport last week after the actor waged a public campaign to seek alternate citizenship in order to avoid high taxes in France.
Depardieu has been criticised in France for being unpatriotic. Abroad he has been criticised for hobnobbing with some of the world’s most unsavoury leaders, particularly in the former Soviet Union.
Depardieu spoke to Russian television from the gilded lobby of a hotel in Baku, the oil-rich capital of Azerbaijan, an ex-Soviet country ruled by the authoritarian president, Ilham Aliyev.
On Saturday, police arrested hundreds of Azeris who came out for a rare protest against the government’s refusal to deal with hazing in the country’s conscript army.
Depardieu praised Azerbaijan’s culture and said it was “part of the culture of the larger Russia that was created by Catherine the Great”, according to Rossiya’s translation.
“The wind blows freely [in Russia],” Depardieu said. “I think its powerful temperament stems from this. And that’s what it’s like with me, that’s how we’re similar. One must be very strong to be Russian.”