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Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French government spokeswoman, didn’t comment directly on Depardieu’s tax fight. But she drew a clear distinction between people who have personal or professional reasons to live abroad and “French citizens who proclaim loudly and clearly that they’re exiling themselves for fiscal reasons.”

She said Putin’s offer “is an exclusive prerogative of the Russian chief of state.”

Depardieu has had increasingly high-profile ties with Russia.

Last October he visited Grozny, the capital of the Russian province of Chechnya, to celebrate the birthday of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. And in 2011, he was in Russia’s Arkhangelsk region to play the lead role in the film “Rasputin.”

He is well known in the country, where he appears in an ad for Sovietsky Bank’s credit card and is prominently featured on the bank’s home page.

“You have to understand that Depardieu is a star in Russia,” Vladimir Fedorovski, a Russian writer living in France, told the Europe 1 network on Thursday. “There are crowds around Depardieu. He’s a symbol of France. He’s a huge ambassador of French culture.”

Depardieu has made more than 150 films and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1990 film of the same name.

The Kremlin statement gave no information on why Putin made the citizenship grant, but the Russian president had expressed sympathy with the actor in December, days after Depardieu reportedly said he was considering Russian citizenship.

“As we say, artists are easily offended and therefore I understand the feelings of Mr. Depardieu,” Putin said.

Although France’s highest court struck down the new tax on Dec. 29, the government has promised to resubmit the law in a slightly different form. On Wednesday, the French government estimated the court decision to overturn the tax would cost the country (EURO)210 million ($275 million) in 2013.

In an interview, Depardieu told the Sunday Parisien the court decision made no difference.

France’s debt burden is around 90 percent of national income _ not far off levels that have caused problems elsewhere in the 17-country eurozone.

Depardieu is not the only high-profile Frenchman to object to the super tax. Bernard Arnault _ chief of the luxury goods and fashion giant LVMH and worth an estimated $41 billion _ has said he would leave for Belgium.


Hinnant contributed from Paris. Silvie Corbet also contributed from Paris.