Chechen strongman offers Depardieu shelter
The strongman leader of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, on Wednesday offered French actor Gerard Depardieu a new home to escape his tax woes after the actor joked about receiving a passport from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I don't plan to discuss his actions, but I can say for sure that we are ready to welcome the great artist," Kadyrov told journalists, cited by the RIA Novosti news agency.
"I know that Depardieu is interested in Russia. He does not exclude the possibility of applying for citizenship," Kadyrov said.
"If the country's leadership takes a positive decision, we will be glad to create conditions worthy of the great cultural figure in our republic."
Depardieu in October attended a celebration concert in Grozny on Kadyrov's birthday and spoke on stage in broken Russian, saying: "Glory to Grozny, glory to Chechnya... Glory to Kadyrov!"
Le Monde daily reported on its website Tuesday that Depardieu told friends "Putin has already sent me a passport," although it added he seemed to be speaking in a spirit of fun.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told AFP that he had heard nothing of this, saying that "most likely he was joking."
Depardieu on Sunday threatened to give up his French passport and take up Belgian citizenship to protest at the Socialist government's new tax hike on the rich.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had called Depardieu "pathetic" for making Belgium his formal place of residence, a move meant to help the actor avoid the French tax.
© 2012 AFP