France - Russia

Depardieu praises Russia for its democracy

French actor Gerard Depardieu said on Saturday that he had chosen to live in Russia for the “liberty and democracy” it provides, causing a few raised eyebrows at the Moscow Film Festival.

Reuters/Eric Gaillard

“I’m very proud to be here,” Depardieu said during a press conference on the final day of the festival. “I jumped on the occasion to accept this passport. You can’t change your nationality but you can choose a state, a life, liberty and democracy, as I see it.”

Depardieu was at the festival to present the closing film, Rasputin, in which he plays the title role.

“When I talked about democracy in Russia, all the other countries laughed. Let them laugh. Here, there’s five percent unemployment while in France there’s 12 percent.”

Asked about his relationship with President Vladimir Putin, Depardieu said Putin was “very strong,” and “the man Russia needs.”

The 64 year old actor said his film Rasputin was shot with Putin’s blessing.

“I asked President Putin to read the script, to make sure we weren’t betraying history,” Depardieu said. “He approved.”

Depardieu was given Russian nationality in January by President Putin, after his attempt to move to Belgium, seeking tax exile, fell through.

In an open letter to France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in mid-December, Depardieu accused France of driving out its most successful and talented figures, due to its high tax system.

He said that in over 45 years of working in France, he had paid upwards of 145 million euros to the state.

Ayrault shot back, saying paying taxes was a duty to one's nation, and called Depardieu "pathetic."

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