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NOVOSIBIRSK, March 6 (RIA Novosti) – A blogger from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk has asked the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to check the legality of the Chechen authorities' decision to grant French actor Gerard Depardieu an elite five-room apartment in Grozny.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote last month on his Instagram photo website page that Depardieu, who was granted Russian citizenship in January 2013 and became an honorary citizen of Chechnya, had also received the deeds to the apartment in the Chechen capital.
Kadyrov explained the Chechen authorities’ decision to grant the apartment to Depardieu was based on local traditions of Islamic hospitality. Real estate market experts said the apartment was worth 3-6 million rubles ($100,000-200,000).
Blogger Rostislav Antonov claimed in his letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office the decision contravened Russian legislation, which allows housing to be granted free only to special categories of low-income citizens.
“The procedure for allocating apartments is explicitly set out in Russia’s Housing Code. I have looked through it attentively and found no provision about ‘a jobless French actor.’ Moreover, he is hardly a low-income person, with all respect to him,” Antonov wrote in his LiveJournal blog.
If Depardieu, as a Russian citizen, exercises his right to free-of-charge privatization of his apartment in Grozny, this would incur serious costs to the city’s budget, the blogger argued.
Antonov asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to invalidate the transfer of the apartment to Depardieu and oblige the French actor to return the keys.
A Chechen government spokesman rejected the blogger’s claims as groundless.
“As I understand it, all this fuss is related to the fact that someone in Novosibirsk wanted to attract attention to himself. The apartment granted to Depardieu was bought with the money of the regional fund named after Chechen First President Akhmad Kadyrov and not with budget money,” the spokesman said.
Depardieu collected his Russian passport at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on January 6. He renounced his French citizenship ahead of the government’s planned implementation of a 75 percent tax rate for annual earnings above $1.3 million. Russia has a single-band income tax of just 13 percent.
Depardieu is no stranger to Chechnya, a North Caucasus region which has been at the center of over two decades of violent conflict between Islamist separatists and forces loyal to Moscow. He visited Grozny last October for Kadyrov's 36th birthday, when he said: “Glory to Chechnya! Glory to Kadyrov!"
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).