Gérard Depardieu Vladimir Putin
Gérard Depardieu embraced Vladimir Putin on receiving his Russian passport (Reuters)

Gérard Depardieu has been welcomed to Russia with a free apartment and dinner with Vladimir Putin after being made a Russian citizen.

The 64-year-old actor gave up his French nationality in a row over Francois Hollande's punitive supertax rates.

The French president had suggested temporarily raising taxes for the extremely rich to 75 percent to reduce the nation's debt and deficit.

Depardieu objected and said he would turn over his French passport and social security card in protest in an open letter in December.

Putin stepped in and granted Depardieu Russian citizenship. He will pay the country's 13 percent tax.

Depardieu was welcomed by Putin at his home in Sochi. The two men embraced and then dined together, discussing the actor's forthcoming film, in which he plays Russian monk Rasputin.

Moscow too big

In Saransk, 300 miles east of Moscow, the actor was welcomed by the town's governor and a group of women in traditional costume singing folk songs.

He showed off his new passport to the crowds that had gathered and then went on a tour of the town.

Depardieu was also offered an apartment of his choice, state television reported, although he has not said if he will live in Russia. He  has explained he does not want to live in Moscow because it is too big and said he preferred village life.

France's budget minister Jerome Cahuzac said he was disappointed with Depardieu's decision to give up his nationality: "I find it a bit pathetic that for tax reasons this man - whom by the way I admire infinitely as an actor - has decided to exile himself."

Depardieu is a celebrity in Russia and appears in an advert for the Sovietsky Bank credit card.