Chechen strongman Kadyrov greets touring Depardieu

Chechen strongman Kadyrov greets touring Depardieu

MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Chechen strongman Kadyrov greets touring Depardieu

French actor Gerard Depardieu, center right, hugs with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, shortly after his arrival to Chechnya's provincial capital Grozny, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013. President Vladimir Putin granted Depardieu Russian citizenship last month and on Saturday he got registered as a resident of the city of Saransk. AP photo

French acting legend Gerard Depardieu, who recently registered as a Russian resident amid a tax row with Paris, arrived Sunday in Chechnya where he was greeted by the republic's flamboyant strongman.

Ramzan Kadyrov welcomed Depardieu at the airport in Grozny after the French actor spent two days in the little known Russian region of Mordovia to officially take residence at No 1. Democracy street in the city of Saransk.

"I invited Gerard Depardieu to Grozny. This is his second trip to Chechnya," Kadyrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Kadyrov is accused by rights groups of ruling his territory with an iron grip, violently suppressing political opponents and publicly backing honour killings.

The young leader has recently taken to social media and published a series of pictures on photo-sharing website Instagram in an apparent attempt to reveal a softer side with shots of him posing with his small children and baby animals.

Gerard Depardieu, who over the years has developed business and personal ties with much-criticised regimes such as those of Cuba or Uzbekistan, was already in Chechnya last October for Kadyrov's 36th birthday.

"Glory to Chechnya! Glory to Kadyrov!" he then said.

Kadyrov likes to invite A-listers to his multi-million-dollar birthday parties and the previous year attracted US actress Hilary Swank, Belgian action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme and British violinist Vanessa Mae.