President Vladimir Putin says film star and tax exile Gerard Depardieu is a welcome guest in Russia. However, the actor’s statement that the Russian President sent him a passport has turned out to be a joke.
Depardieu, who is renouncing his French citizenship in search of a better financial future, made headlines across the world when he announced earlier this week: “Putin has already sent me a passport!”
Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov later said the actor’s words were a joke. “I haven’t heard anything about it. It must be a joke,” Peskov noted.
During the press conference on Thursday Vladimir Putin has confirmed that he has had “kind, friendly, personal relations” with the leading light of French cinema, Depardieu.
“If Gerard Depardieu really wants to have Russian residence permit or a Russian passport – then, let’s say, it’s settled,” Putin said.
Putin said he is sure that officials in France didn’t mean to offend Depardieu, but “like any civil servants have to defend their politics”.
“I know that he considers himself to be French, and loves his country a great deal, it’s his whole life. I’m sure he is living through hard times these days and I hope he’ll get over it soon,” Putin said, noting that most artists easily take offense.
Le Monde reported on Tuesday that Depardieu has mentioned three countries ready to receive him; Belgium, where he has just bought a house, Montenegro, where he has friends and some businesses, and Russia which boasts a flat 13% income tax rate and could become a tax haven for the Academy-award nominated actor.
Earlier this week the 63-year-old star said he was renouncing his French citizenship over the “insulting” accusations of tax evasion he faced after announcing plans to move to Belgium.
"I don't ask for approval, but I could at least be respected!" Depardieu wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. "All those who have left France have not been insulted as I have been," the actor noted, his words referred to Prime Minster Jean Marc Ayrault`s comment when he called the actor’s decision to leave his native country "pathetic".