First he starred as the eccentric Russian monk and mystic Rasputin, and now Gérard Depardieu has gone one step further to become an official citizen of Russia, welcomed by President Vladimir Putin as the French actor looks to avoid the new tax for millionaires in his home country.

The unlikely friends met in the Black Sea town of Sochi, where Putin handed Depardieu his new Russian passport, the Kremlin has confirmed. On Thursday, Putin officially signed a decree conferring citizenship on the French star, who has left many fans furious.

French president François Hollande plans to impose a 75% tax rate on the super-rich in France. French prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, called Depardieu's decision to seek residency elsewhere, including buying a home in Belgium, "shabby, unpatriotic, pathetic".

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French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, greets Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia has a modest flat income tax of 13%.

Putin did not hand the passport over personally, the BBC reported, but the two embraced and shook hands.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "A brief meeting between the president and Depardieu took place. On the occasion of his visit to Russia, he was handed a Russian passport."

A film of the two meeting has been shown on Russia's Channel One.

According to AP, Depardieu flew on Sunday to Saransk, a town about 300 miles east of Moscow, where he was met at a snow-covered airport by the governor and a group of women in traditional costume singing folk songs. He flashed his new passport to the crowd before setting out on a tour of the town.

AP reported that the governor apparently invited Depardieu to settle in Saransk and offered him an apartment of his choice.

Depardieu has never confirmed that he plans to take up residence in Russia, but has previously said he does not want to live in Moscow because it is too big and he prefers a village.

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French actor Gerard Depardieu, center, poses on a theatre stage, wearing a traditional folk outfit, after he arrived in Saransk

The Cyrano de Bergerac star has featured in many advertising campaigns in Russia and has often spoken of his admiration for Russia : "I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence."

"It is a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby".

Depardieu has starred in many Russian advertising campaigns, including one for ketchup and one for Sovietsky Bank's credit card. He played Grigory Rasputin, a joint Franco-Russian production, in 2011.

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  • Gerard Depardieu

    CORRECTING DATE TO SUNDAY JAN. 6 - French actor Gerard Depardieu, center, poses on a theatre stage, wearing a traditional folk outfit, after he arrived in Saransk, some 700 km (435 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. Vladimir Volkov, head of Republic of Mordovia, is at left, man at right is unidentified. (AP Photo/Mordovmedia.ru)

  • Gerard Depardieu

    CORRECTING DATE TO SUNDAY JAN. 6 - French actor Gerard Depardieu poses with his new Russian passport on a theatre stage, wearing a traditional folk outfit, after he arrived in the city of Saransk, some 700 km (435 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. (AP Photo/Mordovmedia.ru)

  • Gerard Depardieu, Vladimir Putin

    French actor Gerard Depardieu gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, unseen, after his arrival late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at the president's residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

  • Gerard Depardieu, Vladimir Putin

    French actor Gerard Depardieu speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin, unseen, after his arrival late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at the president's residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

  • Gerard Depardieu, Vladimir Putin

    French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, greets Russian President Vladimir Putin after his arrival late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at the president's residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

  • Gerard Depardieu, Vladimir Putin

    French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, speaks to President Vladimir Putin and unidentified aides after his arrival late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at the president's residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with President Vladimir Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

  • Gerard Depardieu, Vladimir Putin

    French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, greets Russian President Vladimir Putin after his arrival late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, at the president's residence in Sochi, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Depardieu has received a Russian passport after flying to Russia for a late night dinner with Putin. Depardieu sought Russian citizenship as part of his battle against a proposed super tax on millionaires in France, and Putin granted his request last week. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)

  • Vladimir Putin, Gerard Depardieu

    FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010 file photo Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and French actor Gerard Depardieu talk during their visit to the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Gerard Depardieu, the French actor who has been sparring with his native country over taxes, has been granted Russian citizenship. A brief announcement on the Kremlin website said President Vladimir Putin signed the citizenship grant on Thursday Jan. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010 file photo Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and French actor Gerard Depardieu, left, attend the Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg. Gerard Depardieu, the French actor who has been sparring with his native country over taxes, has been granted Russian citizenship. A brief announcement on the Kremlin website said President Vladimir Putin signed the citizenship grant on Thursday Jan. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool)