One winter morning at 5am, I was shivering outside the immigration office, in hope to get in when it opened at 9am. My name was 21st on the list. But as dawn arrived, each name was read out by the security guard... until number 20.
That was one of the of the many incredibly frustrating bureaucratic battles I had to fight in order to remain in Russia. I won a few battles, but lost the war.
Then I head about Gerard Depardieu, and I was incredibly annoyed when I read that he was given a passport as soon as he set foot in Russia, and welcomed by Vladimir Vladimirovich. (Can't blame him, being a fan of French cinema I suppose.) VVP has done the same shameless celebrity chasing with Paul McCartney when he came to perform in Moscow, so this isn't surprising.
What has this man done to deserve this? Oh ok, so he sings praises of Putin and Putin's Russia. Or maybe one had to be a tax evader to have his name on the list. Or maybe he had to be an incredibly silly celebrity. To me, my irritation has nothing to do with politics. This time, it's personal. I'm going to say, Depardieu, you're a shameless moron.
I don't know whether Depardieu truly likes Putin, or is just licking his boots so that he could get into Russia and cast his French passport (and obligatory tax payments) away.
Maybe there is only the simple explanation that Russians are just happy to have a celebrity who even wants to become a Russian citizen. As for tax evasion--hey, how many Russians actually pay their taxes in full?
As for those who are calling Russia out on letting a tax evader take shelter in Russia--let me point out that other great tax evaders of Russia have fled to to the open arms of other countries, like Boris Berezovskiy who fled to the UK, or Guzinskiy who fled to Israel/Spain.
When I next arrive in Russia, I better see Putin waiting at the airport with my Russian passport, to make up for all the waiting in line outside in the cold and impossible bureaucratic obstacles that drive one suicidal... and it better come with a minister's job as well.
Depardieu, you shameless moron!
Foreign Policy magazine: What I Learned from Gérard Depardieu
Depardieu offered minister's job in Russia