MOSCOW — Gerard Depardieu has taken his first steps on Russian soil as a recently accepted Russian citizen.
In what is perhaps an uncommon occurrence for most Russians, the French actor will also be granted a private audience with President Vladimir Putin.
According to BBC News, a Kremlin spokesman said the president will meet privately with the actor in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on on Saturday.
The Cyrano de Bergerac star will receive his new Russian passport from Putin at that meeting.
At the end of last year, Depardieu announced he was seeking Russian citizenship after a highly publicized war of words over the French government’s moves to impose a 75 percent tax on residents earning more than 1 million euros a year.
Such was the acrimony of the row — French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the actor “shabby and unpatriotic,” to which Depardieu responded in an outraged open letter — that even when a French court dismissed the tax hike, it didn’t alter the 64-year-old’s intention to renounce his French citizenship.
Earlier this week President Putin signed the decree granting Russian citizenship to the actor, The Telegraph notes.
In an open letter, a clearly delighted Depardieu responded, writing, “I love your country, Russia — its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence.”
He added that Russia was, “a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby.”
Putin has previously described Depardieu as a friend and the actor currently appears in an advertisement for Sovietsky Bank’s credit card. He also worked there in 2011 for a film about the Russian monk Grigory Rasputin, Reuters reports.
It’s likely Russia’s flat 13% personal income tax rate is also deeply attractive to Depardieu.
To Russia with haste?