Russians reacted Friday with amusement, disbelief and a heavy dose of irony to the news that the Kremlin has granted citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu to solve his tax woes.
In a letter broadcast on Russian television on Thursday, the former Oscar nominee declared his love for President Vladimir Putin and called Russia a “great democracy.”
Far-left politician Eduard Limonov suggested Depardieu could reprise his famous film role of French revolutionary Georges Danton and risk detention by riot police at a regular unsanctioned rally against Putin.
Depardieu seemed unlikely to take up this offer after Putin praised their “very friendly, personal relationship” at a recent news conference.
Many jokingly speculated about how the film star might adapt to life as a pensioner if he moved to Russia after threatening to renounce his French citizenship over a proposed 75-percent tax rate on the super rich.
If Depardieu, 64, opted to live in Russia more than half the tax year, he would pay just 13 percent tax to the government whose budget is highly dependent on state-owned energy resources.
As a Russian, he now qualifies for a respectful patronymic and can be addressed not as Monsieur Depardieu, but Gerard Renevich, because his father’s first name was Rene, Orekh added.
Depardieu, like other Russian citizens, would have to register his place of residence with local authorities.
Yet some also questioned the morality of Russia fast-tracking Depardieu’s citizenship request.
His public opposition to paying high taxes in France showed he “loves money more than motherland,” wrote Orekh.
Poet Lev Rubinshtein warned Depardieu on Facebook that if he chose to pay taxes in Russia, they would go to “gorillas with batons who joyfully beat up young men and women and old ladies.”
Russia has used Depardieu’s request to preen itself over what it sees as an endorsement of its economic policies.
Meanwhile Depardieu’s threat to give up his passport over soaring tax demands has prompted much soul-searching in France.
Right-wing daily Le Figaro described the affair as a “bad farce” but stressed in a front-page editorial that “this 75 percent tax is an economic, political and diplomatic fiasco that we should not be smiling about.”
The canny PR stunt comes as Russia faces widespread international criticism over a recent decision to ban adoptions of Russian children by US citizens, and looks like an attempt to deflect public attention.
Putin last week signed a law banning US adoptions despite emotional appeals after Washington passed legislation targeting the Russian officials who were allegedly involved in the prison death of a lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.