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Depardieu praises new country

Tax exile actor says Russia is a ‘great democracy’ with ‘marvellous’ countryside and ‘no pettiness’

TAX exile Gerard Depardieu has expressed “pleasure” that his request for Russian citizenship was accepted, in a letter in which he praised Russia as a “great democracy”.

The actor is said to have “sent back” his French passport after a row over his decision to become a Belgian resident so as to pay less tax.

He made enquiries about taking Belgian citizenship but was also offered the option of becoming Russian by his friend Russian premier Vladimir Putin, confirmed by decree yesterday. He has now clarified that he asked for it to be granted.

In an acceptance letter published in a Russian newspaper, Pervyi Kanal he said he “adore(s) your country, her people, her history, her writers” and likes to make films there.

“I love your culture, your intelligence,” he said. His father was a communist who listed to Radio Moscow, so the country was “a part of my culture”.

Depardieu has become well-known in Russia, where he sits on the Moscow Film Festival jury and features in TV and poster adverts for large companies.

He said one “lives well” in Russia, especially in the countryside, where he knows “marvellous spots”.

He added: “I’m going to learn Russian. I’ve even spoken about it to my president François Hollande. He knows I like your president a lot and that it’s reciprocal.

“I told him Russia was a great democracy and it was not a country where a prime minister would call a citizen ‘pathetic’ (referring to remarks Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault reportedly made).”

Waxing poetic, Depardieu said that “in such a big country you are never alone because each tree, each country view awakens feelings of hope in us. There is no pettiness in Russia, only noble feelings,” before ending with Russian phrases meaning “glory to Russia!”, “thank you!”.

Belgian officials said Depardieu could still request Belgian citizenship, but it would be considered differently. He needed to clearly explain his plans and if he would really live in the country and develop his activities there.

Previous story: Depardieu is made a Russian citizen

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