GERARD Depardieu, the French actor granted Russian citizenship, met President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi after receiving his new passport, according to a statement on the Kremlin’s website.
Two photographs on the site show the actor dining with Mr Putin and embracing him.
Depardieu’s new passport is ‘‘good news for Russian cinema’’, French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac said on Europe 1 radio, though he added that ‘‘I find it a bit ludicrous that for tax reasons, this man decided to exile himself so far to the east’’.
The actor wrote in an open letter to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault published in the French weekly Journal du Dimanche last month that his tax rate had hit 85 per cent and he is leaving ‘‘because you consider that success, creativity, talent, anything different, are grounds for sanction’’.
Depardieu currently appears as the face of Bank Sovietsky in an ad campaign on its website and was among Western celebrities invited last year to the birthday of controversial Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Vladimir Volkov, the head of the Russian republic of Mordovia, said Depardieu can fill the vacant seat of minister for culture, RIA Novosti reported.
‘‘If Mr Depardieu desires it, he may be offered the post,’’ the news agency cited Mr Volkov as saying after the French actor travelled to Mordovia’s capital of Saransk, about 600 kilometres east of Moscow.
Depardieu was offered the chance to settle in the city and choose an apartment or house to live in a region known during Stalin’s reign for its network of prison camps.
The actor recently professed his love for Mr Putin and called Russia ‘‘a great democracy’’.
‘‘He has completely lost his marbles,’’ wrote one Russian Facebook user, Vladimir Sokolov.
‘‘He became a Russian citizen to replace the 3 million Russians who have escaped Russia in the Putin era,’’ satirist Viktor Shenderovich said on the Echo of Moscow radio station.
Bloomberg, New York Times, AFP