President Vlad Putin's offhand press conference offer...to deliver a hard to get Russian passport...to French tax exile actor Gerard Depardieu...turned into a PR coup for Moscow... when the famously rotund actor flew to Sochi and accepted the document...and citizenship.
Multi-millionaire actor Depardieu even got a job offer from the bleak but gulag rich province of Saransk...besides the advantage of a low 13% flat tax rate...available for only 6-months annual residence.
Worth an estimated $200 million...Depardieu so resented a recent President Hollande proposal to tax France's riche at 75%...that he angrily put his $66 million Paris mansion on the market...and decamped for nearby Belgium.
But...the PR effort may sully French/Russian relations...already weakened after the controversial Pussy Riot trial and jailings.
!NEW LINK ! Commentary with more details by Russian editor/novelist Leonid Bershidsky.
'Giving Russian citizenship to an old drunk fleeing taxes in his country is an incredibly wise and effective move'...and a 'case of provincial complex'...claims sarcastic Russian analyst Belkovsky.