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Putin Offers French Actor Depardieu Russian Citizenship

If French actor Gerard Depardieu really does want to renounce his native land and evade its taxes, he's now got a home land in Russia if he wishes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin today ordered that Depardieu be granted Russian citizenship, the Kremlin announced.

As The Associated Press writes, the 64-year-old Depardieu has "been vocal in his opposition to French President Francois Hollande's plans to raise the tax on earned income above $1.33 million to 75 percent from the current high of 41 percent. Russia has a flat 13-percent tax rate."

In mid-December, the actor wrote French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, to say "he would surrender his passport and French social security card," the AP adds, and "in October, the mayor of a small Belgian border town announced that Depardieu had bought a house and set up legal residence there, a move that was slammed by [France's] newly-elected Socialist government."

As word of Depardieu's complaints spread last month, Putin announced that if the actor "really wanted to renounce his French citizenship, he would find the doors to Russia wide open — with a residency permit and Russian citizenship his for the asking," The New York Times writes.

Why is Putin reaching out to Depardieu? The Washington Post notes that the actor "is no stranger to Russia. He appeared in a recent ad for a Russian bank, and in 2011, he was on location in Archangel for a French TV film in which he played Grigory Rasputin, the mad monk of pre-Soviet fame." He has befriended Ramzan Kadyrov, the Russian federation's man in the capital of Chechnya. who has "ruthlessly eliminated his opposition over the years since his own father, who preceded him in office, was assassinated."

The Times adds that it also seems likely that Putin, "saw a poetic opportunity in the chance for Russia, long known for losing wealthy citizens to the West, to claim one in return."

According to the AP, a spokesman for Depardieu "declined to say whether he had accepted the Russian offer, and refused all comment."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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