Gerard Depardieu leaves Russia for Switzerland: report
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
French film star Gerard Depardieu, wearing a local costume, shows his passport during a ceremony in the town of Saransk in the Mordoviya Republic, southeast of Moscow, January 6, 2013. REUTERS photoFrench actor Gerard Depardieu, who has been granted a Russian passport after vowing to give up his French citizenship in a tax row, flew out of Russia to Switzerland late Sunday, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.
Depardieu flew out of the central Russian region of Mordovia on Sunday evening and later left Russia for Switzerland where he was due to attend FIFA's Golden Ball award ceremony in Zurich on Monday, Interfax reported, citing the press secretary of Mordovia's governor.
Russia will host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 in a landmark event in its post-Soviet history. Putin, who is seen as close to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, championed the country's bid.
Depardieu on Sunday visited Mordovia's capital of Saransk, where he was greeted by folk dancers and traditional blini pancakes and the governor suggested that the Oscar-nominated star might set up home in the region best known for its network of prison camps.
Depardieu, who won an Oscar nomination for his starring role in "Cyrano de Bergerac", was shown on Russian television waving his new red passport after being granted citizenship by Putin, who has called the actor a close friend.
The 64-year-old actor threatened to renounce his French citizenship after French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branded him pathetic for announcing plans to become a tax exile in protest at having to pay a 75 percent tax rate.
In what pundits have termed as a publicity stunt, the Kremlin seized the opportunity to offer him citizenship and the chance to pay a flat tax rate of 13 percent if he came to live in Russia for more than half the year.