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Putin Gives Gérard Depardieu Russian Passport

THOMAS WIRTH/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- French actor Gerard Depardieu, intent on fleeing France’s new steep taxes on its richest citizens, said Thursday he was delighted to hear that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved his request for a Russian passport because “I love your country” and called Russia a “great democracy.”

On Thursday, Putin signed a decree granting the actor Russian citizenship. That will allow him to enjoy Russia’s 13 percent flat tax rate, which is substantially lower than the 75 percent rate introduced by France’s new socialist government for income above 1 million Euros. Though a French court has struck down the tax hike, French President Francois Hollande has vowed to push ahead with the measure.

In a letter sent to Russia’s state-owned Channel 1 television, and addressed to Russia’s journalists, Depardieu welcomed the news, professed his love for Putin (which he claimed was mutual), and said he wanted to move to a village and learn Russian.

Depardieu is perhaps the most recognizable of a group of wealthy French citizens who have declared they will renounce their French citizenship to protest the take increase. He has already reportedly taken up residency in a tiny hamlet in neighboring Belgium and earlier this month expressed interest in moving to Russia. In order to give up his French passport, however, he needed to claim citizenship elsewhere. Thursday’s announcement would appear to meet that requirement.

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ABC News Radio