Depardieu slams Russia protest movement
French actor turned Russian national Gerard Depardieu on Sunday accused President Vladimir Putin's opposition of lacking vision and defended the Kremlin's treatment of the Pussy Riot protest punks.
Depardieu received a Russian passport at a January 6 dinner with Putin that followed a bitter and very public fight with the French authorities over a disputed new tax on the super-rich.
The screen star has denied seeking to profit from Russia's flat 13 percent tax on incomes and has never specified whether he intends to live in Russia long term.
But he has been feted as a hero by Russian state media for offering the Kremlin a chance to highlight the benefits of its policies in the face of broad criticism of Putin abroad.
Both Putin and Depardieu refer to each other as friends and the French actor offered a severe criticism of those who oppose the Russian leader's 13-year rule.
"The Russian opposition has no programme -- it has nothing," he told Rossiya state television's weekly analytical programme in comments carried by local news agencies.
"Unfortunately, the masses are stupid. Only the individual is beautiful," Depardieu was quoted as saying in remarks translated to Russian from French.
Russia's first mass post-Soviet rallies emerged a year ago in response to a fraud-riddled December parliamentary poll in which the ruling party barely hung on to power.
The opposition held a series of subsequent protests that reached up to 120,000 people at their height.
But Putin's thumping presidential return in May cast a pall over the movement and just over 20,000 turned out for a march held Sunday in protest against a new law banning adoptions by American families.
Depardieu said the opposition had "very smart people" such as former chess champion Garry Kasparov in its ranks.
"But that is good for chess and not much else," said the star of films such as "Cyrano de Bergerac" and the "Asterix & Obelix" series.
He also heavily criticised the anti-Putin protest stunt that the Pussy Riot all-female punk band performed last year in Russia's main cathedral.
Two band members are currently serving two-year sentences in Russia's notorious manual labour camps.
Depardieu almost directly repeated Putin's argument that the band members would have been treated much more severely had they gone to an Arab country and performed in a mosque.
"Imagine if these ladies walked into a mosque -- they would not come out alive," said the actor.
"But when I say such things in France, I am considered an idiot," he added.
© 2013 AFP