Actor Depardieu wants to make film in Russia's volatile Chechnya
US-RUSSIA-DEPARDIEU-CHECHNYA:Actor Depardieu wants to make film in Russia's volatile Chechnya
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Film star Gerard Depardieu, who received a hug and a Russian passport from President Vladimir Putin last month, has announced he wants to make a movie in Chechnya after dining and dancing with the volatile region's strongarm leader.
Depardieu abandoned his homeland of France to avoid a planned 75-percent tax on millionaires. He moved to Belgium last year but then continued east to Russia, where Putin granted him citizenship. The two men were shown on state television shaking hands and hugging.
The day after registering as a resident of the Russian city of Saransk on Saturday, the star of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Green Card" flew to the Chechen capital, Grozny, and was shown on television at a feast with regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Pro-Kremlin Kadyrov has imposed an uneasy peace over Chechnya where militants still fight to create an Islamist state more than a decade after Russia re-established federal control over the mainly Muslim region. Two separatist wars there are estimated to have killed more than 100,000 people.
"I would really like to shoot a film here and show that it's possible to do that here in Grozny, shoot a great film," Depardieu, 64, told private broadcaster NTV, in comments aired on Monday.
"I can't reveal all the details now, but we'll come back here and this is only the beginning," he said at a reception where he showed off traditional 'Lezginka' dance moves, performing with flourishes of fists in the air while dancing with a Chechen woman in a green headscarf.
Human rights groups have accused security services in Chechnya of carrying out kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings to try to quash the insurgency. Kadyrov denies the allegations and calls them an attempt to blacken his name.
Depardieu first came to Chechnya to celebrate Kadyrov's birthday last year. When the actor was presented with his Russian passport, the Chechen leader invited Depardieu to live in the region.
"We got to know each other well during his first trip. We discussed several projects. I believe that the current trip will also be productive," Kadyrov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
Depardieu has said he did not leave France for tax reasons. Russia, where the actor has appeared in an advertising campaign for ketchup and a film about the monk Grigory Rasputin, has a flat tax of 13 percent on income.
(Reporting By Thomas Grove; Editing by Pravin Char)