Why Depardieu’s Russian Passport is a Non-Story

Vladimir Putin has scored a real PR coup by offering French actor Gerard Depardieu a Russian passport and a 13% tax rate.  Practically every major Western media outlet has run a story on it, and who could blame them?

For Putin, the publicity stunt ticked all the right boxes:  1) poke Hollande (and Europe in general) in the eye, 2) bring some star power into Russia to lend some much needed credibility, 3) drive home his message demanding that wealthy Russians come back home, and 4) advertise Russia as an arctic tax haven.  Having already cemented cozy relations with Depardieu – he once appeared at Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday party, shouting from the stage “Glory to Grozny! Glory to Chechnya! Glory to Kadyrov!” – Putin pounced with impeccable timing to intervene in Depardieu’s public tax spat with the French government.

Too bad it’s not a real story.  Probably a number of UK journalists are aware of this, but can’t resist from the beloved France bashing.

There’s a reason why Depardieu has stay quiet about Putin’s citizenship offer – and you can bet he’s not packing his bags.  First of all, the alleged 75% tax rate is simply not true.  The ill-considered proposal was swiftly cancelled by the Constitutional Court, and besides, it would only have affected some 1,500 of the country’s richest individuals – hardly a social injustice.  Secondly, Depardieu already lives in a tax haven in Belgium, where tax rates are actually not that different from France, at least in terms of salary income.  Lastly, in order to get that sweet 13% deal, Depardieu would have to spend 182 days per year in residence, otherwise the rate would jump back up to 30%.  Depardieu is not moving to Russia, is not becoming a Russian citizen, period.

It was a fun story, we all had a nice laugh – but seriously, the media has got to exercise some self-control.

If anything, the publicity hoax has actually revealed a much sadder conclusion – that hardly any well known international figure wants to willingly move to Russia.  It’s a great pity to me, as I have always found Russia one of the most interesting, exciting, stimulating, beautiful, and un-boring places on earth – but nobody’s too excited to go live somewhere without any real rights.

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  1. Astat
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    75% tax rate is not a social injustice? Why? Because it would affect only 1500 individual? That’s amazing logic. Putin’s action against Khodorkovsky and Yukos affected even a smaller number of individuals and yet I bet you call it injustice. So why this double standard? Hollande intending to rob the richest French citizens is acting like an African warlord… Shame on him.

  2. Posted January 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Hello Bob ,
    1 ‘ ” GéGé ” is in Sochi with V V Putin ;0)
    2- Tomorrow he will probably attend an Orthodox Xmas ceremony in Moscow . Perhaps at the Christ- Saviour cathedral ;O) The ” Pussy-Riots ” will apreciate this , i guess ;0)
    3- Depardieu matters and it’s the reason why the NYT , the WP , the FT , The Economist , Foreign Policy , Golos Ameriki , Radio Svoboda , RFE and YOU are writing on him !
    He is now a part of the ” Russian soft-power ” and he destroys years of Anti-Putin propaganda efforts ;0)
    4- Depardieu has broken a ( so-called ) ” moral taboo ” in the western ” creative class ” by gloryfing Putin , Kadyrov and Russia