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Bienvenue en Russie, M. Depardieu!

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for more than 12 years now, but he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

The latest diplomatic gag is the granting of Russian citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has in recent years made a big stink over paying too much taxes in France.  While Russia is offering Mr. Depardieu an attractive 13% rate, he will have to spend more than 183 days per year in residence – which is bound to include some chilly months.  Somehow I could see this falling apart, but it certainly marks Russia’s most endearing moment since RT hired Julian Assange to do a show.  What will these daring guys think of next!

The Financial Times points out that not only does Mr. Depardieu have the opportunity to turn in his French passport, he can also go live in beautiful Chechnya:

 But before Russia eclipses Monaco as the next destination for European tax exiles, it has some competition. Chechnya, the war-torn autonomous Russian republic, run by warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, has also offered Mr Depardieu a home.

French media have shown a video of Mr Depardieu celebrating the birthday of Chechnya’s ruler in Grozny in 2012, shouting to the crowd: “Glory to Chechnya, glory to Ramzan Kadyrov.”

Mr Kadyrov last month said he was “ready to welcome the great artist” to Chechnya.

A Chechen spokesman said on Thursday that Mr Kadyrov’s invitation was still good. “We confirm: if Depardieu wants to live in the Chechen Republic, this will be received as joyful news,” spokesman Alvi Karimov told Moscow Echo radio. “He will receive all the conditions required for a good life and creative work.”