Depardieu gets free apartment as new Russian citizen

The day after receiving his new Russian passport from President Vladimir Putin, French actor Gerard Depardieu yesterday flew to the provincial town of Saransk, where he was greeted as a local hero and offered an apartment for free.

Depardieu had sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France.

Putin granted his request last week and late on Saturday welcomed the actor to his residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Russian TV showed the two men embracing and then chatting over supper, discussing a soon-to-be-released film in which Depardieu plays Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

Depardieu yesterday flew to Saransk, a town about 500km east of Moscow, where he was met at a snow-covered airport by the governor and a group of women in traditional costume singing folk songs.

The governor invited Depardieu to settle in Saransk and offered him an apartment of his choice, according to state television.

Depardieu has not said where he would take up residence in Russia, only that he did not want to live in Moscow because it is too big and he prefers a village.

The Frenchman has spent a fair bit of time in Russia in recent years, including for the filming of the French-Russian film Rasputin, and he expresses an admiration for Putin. But it is Russia’s flat 13% income tax that appears to be the biggest draw.

France’s new Socialist government tried to raise the tax on income above €1m to 75% from the current 41%.

That plan was struck down by the highest court, but Jerome Cahuzac, the budget minister, yesterday said the government is reworking the law so the super rich will still be asked to pay an elevated rate.

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