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Depardieu 'Pleased' With Russian Passport

French actor Gerard Depardieu, who announced he wanted to leave his homeland to avoid higher taxes, has said he is "pleased" after being granted Russian citizenship.

President Vladimir Putin said last month that Depardieu would be welcome in Russia, which has a flat income tax rate of 13%, compared to the 75% on income over one million euro that President Francois Hollande wants to levy in France.

After the Kremlin issued a statement on Thursday saying that a decree had been signed granting the citizenship, the film star confirmed he had already applied for a Russian passport.

"Yes, I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers," the actor said in an open letter broadcast on Russian TV station Pervyi Kanal.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Depardieu was being rewarded "for his contribution to Russian culture and cinema".

The Cyrano de Bergerac and Green Card star has become a frequent face on the Moscow celebrity circuit and is well known after appearing in a number of advertising campaigns.

He worked in the country in 2011 on a film about the eccentric Russian monk Grigory Rasputin.

Mr Putin surprised many at his end-of-year press conference in December by saying he was ready to offer the 64-year-old veteran actor a Russian passport to resolve the row.

"If Gerard really wants to have a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we can consider this issue resolved positively," he said at the time.

Depardieu had mentioned moving to Belgium, home of a 50% tax on the very rich, and purchased a new home there near the French border for the specific purpose of avoiding the higher French rate.

But French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called Depardieu's decision to seek Belgian residency "pathetic" and unpatriotic at a time when the French are being asked to pay higher taxes to reduce a large national debt.