Cinema actor Gérard Depardieu, who recently announced he was moving to Belgium to flee the French socialist government's taxes, has been offered Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin, reports CNN.
French actor Gérard Depardieu is known to U.S. movie fans for his starring role in the 1990 comedy "Green Card," in which the character he plays marries an American woman - played by Andie MacDowell - to be allowed permanent residence in the States.
Depardieu may never become a documented immigrant in the U.S., but Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin by decree offered him "citizenship of the Russian Federation."
The movie star and businessman recently fled his native France in a high-profile protest of government plans for a tax hike on the richest. He moved just across the border to the town of Nechin, Belgium, and ditched his French citizenship.
Putin's proposition stems from a quip the actor made to a French newspaper two weeks ago about citizenship offers from other countries. "Putin has already sent me a passport," he joked to Le Monde.
The Russian president pounced on the wisecrack the very next day, saying that if Depardieu wants in, then he's in, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Putin had Thursday's decree posted to his website:
"In accordance with clause 'a' of article 89 of the Russian Constitution, the application for Russian citizenship by Gerard Xavier Depardieu born in France in 1948 has been granted."
France's socialist administration wants to raise taxes on citizens earning more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million) annually to 75%. The Russian federation has a flat income tax rate of 13%, Putin has said.
The actor has not applied for Russian citizenship, RIA Novosti reported, sourcing Russia's Federal Migration Service.
Depardieu is a cultural icon in France, and his departure has triggered a hailstorm of public criticism for and against him. It reignited the discussion of the tax code.
He abandoned his citizenship in an emotional, sweeping open letter addressed to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault that was published in mid-December in the Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche.
"Sadly, I no longer belong here," he wrote, "but I will continue to love the French public, with whom I have shared so many emotions. I'm leaving because you believe that success, creativity, talent -what makes people individual - must be punished."
He asserted that he has always paid his taxes, claiming they totaled 145 million euros over the past 45 years. In addition to his million-dollar acting fees, Depardieu has revenues from companies he said he owns that give work to a total of 80 employees.
"I leave after having paid, in 2012, 85% tax on my income," he wrote, triggering at least one fact check in the French press.
With his citizenship, Depardieu bequeathed in the letter his social security benefits to the state. He has left France to become "a true European, a citizen of the world."
Depardieu has been one of the quintessential faces of the French silver screen for decades. His large, clefted nose, broad smile, beaming eyes, longish blond hair, hefty physique and bodacious mannerisms are uniquely his own and have left their imprint on the French cinema and stage.
He has played in at least 195 films since 1967, according to the Internet Movie Database, and starred in every genre from happy-go-lucky comedies to tragedies. He has helped bring French historic epics such as "Napoleon" and "Germinal" to life.
Read more of this report from CNN.