Russian President Vladimir Putin has granted citizenship to Gerard Depardieu, the French film star who is quitting his homeland to avoid a tax hike on the rich, the Kremlin has said.
Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on Thursday that the former Oscar nominee, who played the role of eccentric Russian monk Grigory Rasputin in 2011, had applied for citizenship after Putin said he would be welcome in Russia.
Depardieu bought a house across the French border in Belgium last year to avoid a new tax rate for millionaires in France planned by Socialist President Francois Hollande, but said he could also seek tax exile elsewhere.
"The citizenship could not have been granted to him without [such an] appeal," Peskov said.
The Kremlin's website said Putin had signed a decree granting Depardieu citizenship.
Speaking at a news conference last month, Putin said: "If Gerard really wants to have either a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we will assume that this matter is settled and settled positively."
Russia has a flat income tax rate of 13 percent, compared with the 75 percent on income over $1.32m that Hollande wants to impose in France.
The 63-year-old Depardieu had told friends he was considering three options to escape France's new tax regime: settling in Belgium, relocating to Montenegro, where he has a business, or fleeing to Russia, French daily Le Monde reported in December.
"I have never killed anyone, I don't think I've been unworthy," Depardieu wrote in an open letter in to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who had called the actor "pathetic".
'Green Card' actor
Depardieu has said he plans to hand in his French passport and social security card.
"Putin has already sent me a passport," Le Monde quoted the actor as jokingly saying in December.
Asked whether Depardieu had plans to move to Russia, the Kremlin spokesman said it was up to him and was "absolutely not mandatory".
Putin and Depardieu did not speak one-on-one before the decision to grant him citizenship, Peskov said.
France's Constitutional Council last month blocked the planned 75 percent tax rate due to the way it would be applied - but Hollande plans to propose redrafted legislation which will "still ask more of those who have the most".
Depardieu is well-known in Russia where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns.
In 2012, he was one of several Western celebrities invited to celebrate the birthday of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's controversial Kremlin-backed leader.
Depardieu has made more than 150 films, among them the 1991 comedy "Green Card'' about a man who enters into a marriage of convenience in order to get US residency.
Most famously, Depardieu was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1990 film of the same name.