Gérard Depardieu has met the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in the Black Sea town of Sochi and obtained his Russian passport, the Kremlin has said, after the French film star left his homeland to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires.
Putin signed a decree on Thursday granting Russian citizenship to Depardieu, who objected to plans by the French president, François Hollande, to impose a 75% tax rate on the super-rich. His decision to quit France had prompted accusations of national betrayal.
The Russian president and Depardieu were shown on state-run TV station Channel One shaking hands and hugging each other early on Sunday during what the Kremlin said was a private visit.
“A brief meeting between the president and Depardieu took place,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “On the occasion of his visit to Russia, he was handed a Russian passport.”
Peskov did not say whether Putin personally gave Depardieu the passport or if he obtained it through standard procedures. He said the actor also told Putin about his career plans.
Depardieu, who starred in Cyrano de Bergerac and Green Card, is a popular figure in Russia, where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns, including one for ketchup. He also worked there in 2011 on a film about Grigory Rasputin.
Putin asked Depardieu whether he was pleased with his work in the movie, TV footage of their meeting showed, with the actor saying he had already sent Putin excerpts.
Depardieu bought a house in Belgium last year to avoid the French income tax rise. The French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, called Depardieu’s decision to seek Belgian residency “pathetic” and unpatriotic, prompting an angry response from the actor.
Putin said last month Depardieu would be welcome in Russia, which has a flat income tax rate of 13%, compared with the 75% tax on income over €1m Hollande wants to levy in France.
The Russian president offered Depardieu a Russian passport, saying he had a close, special relationship with France and had developed warm ties with the actor, even though they had rarely met.
Putin’s critics said the passport move was a stunt and pointed out that the president announced last month a campaign to prevent rich Russians keeping their money offshore.