Depardieu Hunts for Russian Grove After Putin Passport Embrace

Gerard Depardieu, the French actor awarded Russian citizenship this month, is shopping for land near a provincial capital where he plans to settle down after a feud over taxes with officials in his native country.

“He will be happy to find a place to live in Saransk,” Arnaud Frilley, a spokesman for Depardieu, said by e-mail, referring to the capital of the Mordovia region about 600 kilometers east of Moscow. “His desire is to find a quiet area outside the city and to stay in a traditional little wooden house near a grove.”

Frilley, who produced Depardieu’s 2011 film about Grigory Rasputin, the peasant mystic with a hold over Russia’s last royal family, said he’ll fly to Saransk later this month and settle the actor’s residency status. Depardieu likes to live in the places he works and he’s planning to shoot a movie in Russia about Catherine the Great, Frilley said.

Depardieu, 64, dined with President Vladimir Putin, 60, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Jan. 5 after receiving his new citizenship and then flew to Saransk at the invitation of Nikolai Borodachev, a native of the region who heads the Russian State Film Fund. The colleagues visited a local theater and museum and feasted on a traditional meal of baked eggs and bliny, washed down by Mordovian moonshine, according to Saransk Mayor Pyotr Tultaev.

‘Very Personal’

The actor wrote in an open letter to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault published in the French weekly Journal du Dimanche last month that he would leave the country because his tax rate had hit 85 percent. He bought a home and applied for citizenship in Belgium before Putin granted citizenship in Russia, where the rate is a flat 13 percent.

Borodachev said Depardieu wrote “a very personal” letter to Putin in late December in which he asked for citizenship, professed his love for Russia and promised to learn the language. He’s currently the face of an advertising campaign by St. Petersburg-based lender Bank Sovietsky.

Depardieu is welcome in Mordovia whether he pays taxes or not, Mayor Tultaev said.

“That’s because he’s Depardieu, not Abramovich,” Tultaev said, referring to Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who owns London’s Chelsea Football Club.

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