Actor Gerard Depardieu has called his new home Russia "a great democracy" after being granted citizenship by President Vladimir Putin. In an open letter, the Oscar winner hailed Putin for personally signing the decree, which grants him a Russian passport following his tax row with the government in his native France.
In December, Mr Putin said he would be happy to welcome Depardieu into his country, "If he'd like to have a Russian passport, consider it settled" he said. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the actor's decision to leave the country "shabby." In the letter broadcast on Russian TV station Pervyi Kanal, Depardieu said, "I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence." The row began last year after French President Francois Hollande said he would raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than £1 million euros. The actor had accused the socialist government for punishing "success, creation and talent," and initially announced he would be moving to Belgium. After seemingly changing his mind, Mr Depardieu sought citizenship in Russia, which has a flat 13% personal income tax rate. It's likely Putin was aware of the actor's lead role in the movie Rasputin, a Franco-Russian production from 2011.
It's the latest bizarre turn in the life of Depardieu, who delayed an Air France plane from Paris to Dublin in 2011 after urinating on the floor. The actor reportedly refused to wait 15 minutes until the bathrooms could be unlocked, choosing instead to relieve himself on the carpet.
In August 2012, he became involved in a traffic collision after riding his scooter around Paris' bust sixth arrondissement. The driver of the car claimed Depardieu punched him square in the face and filed a complaint at the prosecutor's office.