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Gérard Depardieu picks up Russian passport in Sochi, and has "private" meeting with Putin

In a case that's aroused the ire of the French, France-native Gérard Depardieu has become a Russian citizen to avoid new tax—and is welcomed with open arms
Dsk film 2012 02 06Enlarge
French actor Gerard Depardieu will play the former IMF head Dominique Strauss Kahn in a new production by independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara (Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

Actor Gérard Depardieu's decision to leave France is proceeding quickly: he picked up his Russian passport Saturday in the resort town of Sochi, and met Vladimir Putin during the same visit.

The BBC reports that Putin did not hand Depardieu the passport personally, during the course of a visit that was described as "private."

Video of the two men embracing like old pals was shown on Russia's Channel One television network on Sunday, reports the Guardian. Depardieu appears to have discussed his future career plans with Putin — which might, presumably, include a turn in Russia's native film industry.

Read more from GlobalPost: Gérard Depardieu arrested for driving drunk

Depardieu arrived in Central Russia's Mordovia Sunday, where local governor Vladimir Volkov has offered a home or apartment for the actor, wrote AFP.

He was allegedly "greeted as a hero" in the regional capital of Saransk, in an area that is best known for its punishing weather and profusion of prison camps, including the facility that appears to hold a member of the internationally famous Pussy Riot band.

Putin signed the decree granting Depardieu Russian citizenship on Thursday,

Why has Depardieu decided to part ways with his native country? A proposed new 75 percent tax on the rich in France, originating from new socialist president Francois Hollande is the answer — a measure that the famously cantankerous Depardieu is not exactly enthused by.

Depardieu claimed the French government would be punishing "success, creation and talent" if they implemented such a tax, says the Guardian.

The actor got his way: at the end of December, France's Constitutional Council threw out the measure, deeming the "supertax" unconstitutional, wrote the Guardian.

Read more from GlobalPost: Putin grants Depardieu Russian citizenship

The Russians may have welcomed the celebrity with open arms, but the French have responded with wide-spread criticism of the controversial actor, wrote CNN, describing his actions as "desertion" and "pathetic" (among other, saltier phrases).

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/news/regions/europe/russia/gerard-depardieu-picks-russian-passport-sochi-and-has-private-

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