Depardieu back in the USSR at Cannes
French movie star Gerard Depardieu sought to play down controversy over his views on Ukraine and Russia at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, but couldn't resist the chance to praise his friend Vladimir Putin.
After presenting his new movie "Valley of Love" with fellow French icon Isabelle Huppert, Depardieu faced questions about his much-criticised decision to take Russian citizenship in 2013.
"I like everybody, I think conflict is a terrible thing," he said.
"I know Vladimir Putin, I like him very much. I go to the USSR a lot, err, Russia," he added, drawing a laugh at a press conference.
Depardieu, 66, insisted that "no one understands the situation in Ukraine", where Western powers have accused the Russian president of illegally annexing Crimea and continuing to arm pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"Like anyone, I'm shocked by the situation," he said.
"I love the Ukrainian people but conflicts are not my area."
He added: "The same goes for Russia, there are so many different ethnicities in Russia... I don't pretend to know, or be the spokesman for, anything. I hate war, I hate conflict because people die."
But he indulged in a sideswipe at the United States: "I know if Crimea had been American it would have been different. Think about it."
Depardieu befriended Putin and accepted a Russian passport after criticising taxes on top earners in France.
The larger-than-life star, who has long delighted in scandalising his compatriots, said he was happy to still be making French films, not least for the lifestyle it affords.
"I became an actor because I love it, it makes me happy, and you earn a lot of money," he said.
"That may sound vulgar but that's how it is."
The Cannes Film Festival wraps up Sunday with 19 films in the running for the Palme d'Or top prize.
© 2015 AFP