Gerard Depardieu collects Russian passport from President Putin
Jan. 6, 2013, 5:34 PM EST
French actor Gerard Depardieu has graciously accepted his new Russian passport from President Vladimir Putin himself after meeting with the leader on Saturday (05Jan13). The Green Card star became headline news in his native France last month (Dec12) when he moved across the border to the Belgian village of Nechin in an apparent attempt to avoid a steep tax hike aimed at the country's wealthiest residents. He applied for Russian citizenship, and his request was granted on Thursday (03Jan13), allowing Depardieu to sacrifice his French passport and escape to Eastern Europe to start a new life. Depardieu was invited to toast his new citizenship with Putin at his holiday resort in Sochi and the pair was photographed shaking hands and hugging as the actor was welcomed to Russia. On Sunday (06Jan13), the star flew to the city of Saransk in the region of Mordovia, where he was greeted by the local governor and a group of folk-singing women dressed in traditional costume in a bid to convince the star to settle in the area. Flashing his new passport, Depardieu told reporters, "I am very happy, it's very beautiful here. Beautiful and soulful people live here."