French actor Gerard Depardieu, who is quitting his homeland to avoid higher taxes, says he's pleased President Vladimir Putin has granted him Russian citizenship.
The decision appears to give Depardieu, a frequent guest on the Moscow celebrity circuit, the right to pay the relatively low 13 per cent tax rate levied in Russia on everyone from tycoons to the poor.
After the Kremlin issued a statement saying Putin had signed a decree granting Depardieu citizenship, the movie star confirmed that he had applied for a Russian passport and said he was "pleased" to have been granted citizenship.
"I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers," the actor said in an open letter broadcast on Russian TV station Pervyi Kanal on Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Depardieu was being rewarded "for his contribution to Russian culture and cinema".
The development is the latest in a dispute between Depardieu and French authorities over their attempt to raise the tax rate on annual earnings of more than one million euros ($A1.27 million) to 75 per cent.
The actor and French President Francois Hollande discussed the issue on Tuesday, Hollande's office confirmed, but declined to reveal details.
Arnaud Frilley, a friend and business associate of Depardieu, told RTL radio: "It is not the fiscal aspect that revolts him but really the kind of 'we spit on those who succeed, who take initiative'. At some point you just get fed up."
The Kremlin's announcement looks more like a jab at the West by Putin than an actual effort to lure a global celebrity to Moscow.
French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the decision was the "exclusive prerogative of the Russian head of state" and did not merit further comment.
Depardieu said a move by France's Constitutional Council to strike down the proposed 75 per cent tax rate would not change his decision to move out of France.
The French Socialist government is vowing vowed to push ahead with the tax and to propose a new measure to comply with the constitution.
At his end-of-year press conference in December Putin surprised many by saying he was ready to offer the 64-year-old veteran French actor a Russian passport to resolve the dispute.
Putin added that the French premier's famous remark about Depardieu being "pathetic" for threatening to leave the country had hurt the star's feelings and may eventually force him to move.
"An artist is easy to offend," Putin said.
Depardieu had mentioned moving to Belgium - home of a 50-per cent tax on the very rich - and bought a new home there near the French border for the specific purpose of avoiding the higher French rate.
A senior Belgian official said if the star pursued his stated intention to obtain Belgian nationality, that bid could be affected by him accepting Russian nationality.
Depardieu has been a huge star in Russia since the Soviet era and still enjoys cult status among many movie buffs.
He's also been a frequent jury member for the glitzy Moscow and Sochi film festivals.
The hulking actor has even featured in local television advertisements for products ranging from kitchen furniture to a brand of tomato sauce called Baltimore.
A picture of Depardieu giving the thumbs-up sign still graces the home page of a small Russian bank called Sovetsky (The Soviet).
The charismatic Frenchman was most recently asked to emigrate to Russia by the iron-fisted leader of Chechnya, the scene of two post-Soviet wars that killed tens of thousands.
"I can say for sure that we are ready to welcome the great artist," Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said a day before Putin's first remarks on the subject.
Depardieu this year made a peculiar visit to Chechnya to celebrate the birthday of Kadyrov, a ruler accused of torture and other violent crimes by international rights groups.
A video of that celebration showed Depardieu at one stage shouting in Russian: "Glory to Grozny! Glory to Chechnya! Glory to Kadyrov!"
Depardieu will qualify for the 13-per-cent tax rate if he spends at least six months in Russia per year.
The rate would rise to 30 per cent on all income made locally and in other countries if he spends more than half the year abroad.
"People in the West do not know the details of our tax system," senior cabinet member Dmitry Rogozin tweeted on Thursday."When they find out, we should expect a mass migration of rich Europeans to Russia."
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