MOSCOW, January 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Communist Party (KPRF) has invited French actor and tax exile Gerard Depardieu to join its ranks, following his receipt of Russian citizenship earlier this month, party First Secretary Valery Rashkin said Friday.
"Yes, today I wrote an official letter to Depardieu in France inviting him to join the KPRF. ... I think he has great respect for his father, who was a member of the Communist Party, and would share his position," Rashkin said, in apparent indifference to Depardieu's resentment of wealth-redistribution policies in his native land.
"We are now waiting for his decision," added Rashkin, who also said Depardieu had not previously discussed the issue with the party.
Depardieu has so far shown little overt sympathy for the ideals of the Russian Communist Party, which remains notionally committed to its Marxist ideology and has declined to reinvent itself as a democratic-left movement like some of its contemporaries in Europe.
Depardieu has said his reason for leaving France was to protest the imposition by its Socialist President Francois Hollande of a 75 percent tax on the wealthiest earners. Russia has a flat 13 percent tax on income.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branded Depardieu as "pathetic" last year, prompting the actor to write a defiant open letter in his defense.
Depardieu received Russian citizenship on January 6 after President Vladimir Putin used his personal authority to award it to him. Normally, getting Russian citizenship takes years in a convoluted bureaucratic process involving language tests and medical checks.
The actor said he was unlikely to use his new citizenship to live in a major city and would possibly like to live in the provinces. He travelled to the remote Mordovia region shortly after receiving his new passport, where the local governor offered him an apartment.
He has also said he is seeking Belgian residency, after buying a house in Belgium last year, and denied his motives were financial.
"I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality," he told the L'Equipe21 sports channel. "But if I'd wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press says, I would have done it a long time ago."
France had a strong Communist Party of its own in the mid-20th century, which often gained up to 25 percent of the vote in the post-war period, but later reinvented itself as the Socialist Party (PS) in a bid to reverse falling electoral popularity.