Last month, shortly after Gérard Depardieu publicly declared that he was giving up his French papers, the actor said that Russian president Vladimir Putin had already sent him a passport. Although Depardieu’s comments were taken as a joke at the time, Putin weighed in before the holidays, saying, “If Gérard wants a visa or a Russian passport, it’s settled.” Today, the Kremlin announced that a decree has been signed granting Russian citizenship to Depardieu. Whether the Oscar-nominated actor will accept the new status remains to be seen. He is not, however, expected to change his mind about remaining in France where he has been at the center of a media and political maelstrom ever since deciding to move to neighboring Néchin, Belgium in the face of expected tax increases. The new French government’s plan to impose a 75% tax on people earning more than 1M euros a year ($1.3M) was kiboshed by the Constitutional Council last weekend, but Depardieu said on Sunday that it “changed nothing” for him. Earlier in December, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu’s proposed fiscal exile “pathetic” and the actor shot back in an open letter that he was turning in his French passport.
Depardieu inquired about Belgian citizenship in December, but Le Figaro reports the actor never filed a dossier. The head of the Belgian Commission of Naturalization said today that Putin’s announcement made the situation “more complex.” If Depardieu accepts Russian citizenship, he can still ask for Belgian papers, “but we’ll examine the request differently. He’ll have to clearly tell us about his plans and if he counts on living in and developing his activities in our country.” Depardieu has ties to Russia (and the tax rate there is a flat 13%). He’s hugely popular in the country, appears in local ads for Sovietsky Bank and recently shot a series of spots for other brands. He also shot TV movie Raspoutine there in 2011. What’s more, he’s apparently been invited to put down stakes in the Russian republic of Chechnya. According to Le Monde, the spokesperson for president Ramzan Kadyrov said today, “If Depardieu wants to come and live in Chechnya, we would very be very grateful.” Kadyrov is the same dictator whose birthday party was controversially attended by Hilary Swank in October 2011. Depardieu attended Kadyrov’s most recent birthday party, according to Le Nouvel Observateur.