Gérard Depardieu enjoyed a lively first day as a Russian citizen today, with banquets, toasts and offers of free property.
The French actor, who has said he is leaving France in protest at a tax increase on the super-rich, has now received his Russian passport, possibly directly from the hands of President Vladimir Putin.
The two men, who enjoy a warm friendship, met in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, ostensibly to talk about the release of a film in which Depardieu, 64, plays the wild, debauched Russian monk Rasputin. Mr Putin’s spokesman said the actor “used the opportunity” to pick up his new documents.
In a letter to Russian journalists last week explaining why he was taking Russian citizenship, Depardieu wrote of his “love” for Mr Putin and called Russia a “great democracy”. It is unclear whether he will actually live permanently in Russia, and thus become eligible for a 13 per cent flat income tax rate. He has said that Moscow is too big a metropolis for him and he would prefer to live in the countryside.
He certainly has no shortage of offers of a roof over his head. The Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has said the actor would be welcome in Chechnya, while today Depardieu was receiving a ceremonial welcome in Mordovia, west of Moscow.