French actor Gérard Depardieu, a known friend and admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has come out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Depardieu, 73, called for peace talks, saying “put down the weapons and negotiate”.
“Russia and Ukraine have always been brotherly countries. I am against this fratricidal war,” he told French news agency AFP, who he contacted specifically to make the declaration.
Mr Depardieu has been a citizen of Russia since 2013 after being granted it in an executive order by Mr Putin.
Mr Depardieu said he took the citizenship as a protest against a proposed increase in taxes on the wealthy in France. He has kept his French nationality.
He was welcomed to Russia personally by Mr Putin when he received Russian citizenship, with the president treating him to dinner.
“I will say what I think about Putin: the Russian nation needs a person just like this, with a Russian temper. Putin is trying to return just a bit of dignity back to the people,” Mr Depardieu said after the dinner.
‘National security threat to Ukraine’
Ukraine blacklisted Mr Depardieu in 2015, effectively banning him from the country for five years.
No specific reason was given for the ban, but Ukraine's culture ministry had previously labelled Mr Depardieu as a national security threat, along with other pro-Russian international stars.
The Ukrainian government was angered by Mr Depardieu after he supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
He also said that same year, “I love Russia and Ukraine, which is part of Russia”.
Charged with rape
Mr Depardieu was charged in 2020 with the rape of a French woman in an incident dating back to 2018.
The woman, Charlotte Arnould, spoke out about the situation in December 2021.
“It’s now a year since he was charged. He is still working while I spend [all] my time surviving. This life has been passing me by for three years and I want to live without denying myself,” she said.
Mr Depardieu denies the accusations. He remains free but is under judicial supervision.
He continues to work in cinema in France, starring in the film Illusions Perdues, which premiered in France in October and last week picked up seven César Awards.
Mr Depardieu is one of the most prolific actors in French history, and also one of the highest earning actors.
He has starred in over 250 films since 1967 and is best known for playing in Cyrano De Bergerac (1990) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998).