London: French actor Gerard Depardieu, who was criticised for his decision to move abroad to avoid higher taxes, has been handed Russian citizenship and met President Vladimir Putin.
Depardieu met Putin in Russia`s Black Sea resort of Sochi and was then given his new passport, although the president`s spokesman said Putin did not hand it over personally, reported BBC News.
Depardieu and the Russian President shook hands and hugged each other at the meeting in Sochi.
Earlier this week, Putin signed the decree granting Russian citizenship to the `Life of Pi` actor.
Depardieu responded by writing an open letter saying, "I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence."
He went on to describe Russia as "a great democracy, and not a country where the prime minister calls one of its citizens shabby".
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had branded his decision to move abroad as "shabby and unpatriotic".
The 64-year-old actor, described by Putin as a friend, has developed close ties with Russia, which has a flat 13 per cent personal income tax rate.