SARANSK, January 6 (Itar-Tass) —— The capital of Russia’s republic of Mordovia, Saransk, was the first Russian city famous French actor Gerard Depardieu has visited as Russian citizen. On Sunday, he arrived here from the Black Sea resort Sochi, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to receive his Russian passport. Upon arrival in the Saransk airport, Depardieu showed his Russian passport to his fans welcoming him at the airport.
The French actor was welcomed by head of Mordovia Vladimir Volkov, speaker of the republican State Assembly (legislature) Vladimir Chibirkin, Mayor of Saransk Petr Tultayev, and journalists. He was treated to traditional pancakes and folk songs.
Depardieu made a sightseeing trip around the city, visiting the museum of the local lore, the St. Fyodor Cathedral, where he was given an icon as a present, and Russia’s only monument to Yemelyan Pugachyov (c.1742-75), leader of the most dangerous peasant revolt in Russian history, according to the television channel Russia 1. Earlier, Depardieu said more than once that it was his dream to play the peasant revolt leader.
Speaking with journalists, the actor said he thought he had a physical likeness to Pugachyov and found he was perfectly true having seen the monument.
Later, he had a meeting with local residents at the Saransk Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The head of the republic, Vladimir Volkov, offered Depardieu to settle in Saransk. The actor was also given a symbolic “passport of Mordovia’s resident.” Depardieu thanked local residents and said he was fascinated by the local beauties and beautiful and amiable people.
After the meeting, when Depardieu was leaving the theatre, local residents presented him two kittens.
On Saturday, Depardieu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi. “On the occasion of his stay in Russia, Depardieu was handed over the Russian passport,” said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the Russian president. “There was a brief meeting between the president and Depardieu on Saturday. The actor was on a private visit to Russia.”
Putin and Depardieu discussed several issues related to the French-Russian film, where Gerard Depardieu played Russian monk Grigory Rasputin, to be released in Russia in the future. In particular, the actor said the film will be screened in May and will go on TV already in August-September.
In early January, Putin signed a decree granting citizenship to the French actor. On December 20, during his big news conference the Russian leader made it clear that he was ready to positively settle the issue on granting Russian citizenship to Depardieu.
“Russia enjoys very good relations with France and we set a high value on that,” Putin told the big news conference. “Top-ranking French officials did not mean to insult Depardieu, and most likely this is just an unfortunate misunderstanding”. However, it is well known that “it is easy to hurt artist’s feelings”.
Depardieu says he is a “man of the world,” Putin continued. “We have very good relations with him,” the president stressed, expressing confidence that Depardieu “considers himself Frenchman and he is going through rather difficult times at the moment”.
Replying to the question, Putin said that if Depardieu “wants to have residence permit or the Russian passport, than the issue is as good as settled”.
On December 21, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev invited Depardieu to Russia, promising that the country’s authorities had no intention of changing the income tax level.
“May Depardieu feel free to come here. We shall have a 13-percent income tax in any case, and we are not going to change it,” Medvedev said at a meeting with representatives of the business community. “They were about to make him pay a 75-percent tax on all incomes above one million euros. For people doing business this level is quite ordinary.”
Last December. Depardieu announced his intention to renounce French citizenship in protest over the country’s high taxes.