Putin grants French actor Gerard Depardieu Russian citizenship

MOSCOW (MCT) — President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Thursday granting Russian citizenship to Gerard Depardieu, a French movie star and tax rebel.

The text of the decree on the Kremlin website said: “The application for Russian citizenship by Gerard Xavier Depardieu, born in France in 1948, is granted under Article 89, item `a’ of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.”

The actor has bought a property in a village of tax exiles in Belgium and told French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that he would give up his French passport.

Depardieu, who was France’s best-paid actor in 2008, had been pilloried by the French media for announcing his move to Nechin, a village in southern Belgium, less than 1 miles from the French town of Roubaix.

Nechin has many rich French residents who prefer Belgium’s lower income taxes.

He originally claimed he “wanted to leave Paris, the city, its sometimes noisy aspects and find a little quiet, peace and serenity.” He has said that he had paid $187 million in taxes over 45 years.

Putin had said in December that if Depardieu “wants to have a residence permit or the Russian passport, then the issue is as good as settled.”

Russia has a 13 percent income tax rate, while France’s Socialist government is pushing for a new supertax of 75 percent on the country’s super-rich.