Dinner with Putin and Russian passport for tax-row Depardieu

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French actor Gerard Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for 
dinner with President Vladimir Putin.

Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Mr Putin granted his request last week.

Russian television showed Mr Putin embracing the actor as he arrived at the president’s residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The two men were then shown chatting over supper, discussing a soon-to-be-released film in which Depardieu plays Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

Mr Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that Depardieu was given his new Russian passport.

French president Francois Hollande plans to raise the tax on earned income above one million euro (£813,000) to 75 per cent from the current 41 per cent, while Russia has a flat 13 per cent tax rate.

The star of Cyrano de Bergerac and Green Card is a familiar face on the Moscow celebrity circuit and has appeared in a number of Russian advertising campaigns, including one for ketchup.

He worked in the country in 2011 on a film about the Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

Depardieu’s friend Arnaud Frilley told France’s RTL radio: “The president called Gerard to ask if he was really serious about leaving France for good. Gerard told him it wasn’t the taxes themselves that sickened him, but he was sickened by the way France spits on success.”

Depardieu told Russian journalists: “I love your president Putin and that is reciprocated.”

Meanwhile, sex symbol-turned-animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot is threatening to join Depardieu in Russian exile unless France halts plans to put down two sick circus elephants.

The 1960s screen diva says authorities have ignored her “numerous proposals” to save Baby and Nepal, dying of tuberculosis at a Lyon zoo.

On her foundation’s website Bardot described France as “now just a graveyard for animals”.