French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has waged a battle against a proposed super-tax on millionaires in his native country, has been granted Russian citizenship.
A brief announcement on the Kremlin website on Thursday revealed that President Vladimir Putin signed the citizenship grant following an application from the actor.
The former Oscar nominee and star of the movie "Green Card" has been vocal in his opposition to French President Francois Hollande's plans to raise the tax on earned income above 1 million Euros or $1.33 million to 75 percent from the current high of 41 percent. Russia has a flat 13-percent tax rate.
"I have never killed anyone, I don't think I've been unworthy, I've paid 145 million Euros in taxes over 45 years," Depardieu wrote in an open letter in mid-December to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who had called the actor "pathetic."
"I will neither complain nor brag, but I refuse to be called `pathetic,'" the 64-year-old actor wrote in his response.
A representative for the 63-year-old actor, who has appeared in more than 150 films, declined to say whether he had accepted the Russian offer, and refused all comment.
Depardieu said in his letter to Ayrault that he would surrender his passport and French social security card. In October, after the mayor of a small Belgian border town announced that Depardieu had bought a house and set up legal residence there, a move that was slammed by the newly-elected Socialist government.
Depardieu has had increasingly high-profile ties with Russia. Last October he visited the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, to celebrate the birthday of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. And in 2011, he was in Russia's Arkhangelsk region to play the lead role in the film "Rasputin."
"You have to understand that Depardieu is a star in Russia," Vladimir Fedorovski, a Russian writer living in France, told the network Europe 1 on Thursday. "There are crowds around Depardieu. He's a symbol of France. He's a huge ambassador of French culture."
Though France's highest court struck down the two-year tax on Dec. 29, the government has promised to resubmit the law in a slightly different form soon. On Wednesday, it estimated that the court decision to overturn the tax would cost it 210 million Euros in 2013.
In an interview published Sunday, Depardieu told the Sunday Parisien that the court decision made no difference.
Depardieu's eccentric behavior has put him in the headlines several times this year. In August, an airline passenger said her Paris-to-Dublin flight was delayed nearly two hours after Depardieu urinated on the plane ahead of takeoff. The airline confirmed that such an incident had taken place but would not name the people involved.
In November, the actor was taken into police custody for allegedly driving drunk on his scooter in Paris. Police said he fell off the scooter and failed a field sobriety test.