French film star Gerard Depardieu was greeted by President Vladimir Putin and a new Russian passport yesterday after abandoning his homeland to avoid a new tax rate.

Mr Putin signed a decree on Thursday granting Russian citizenship to Depardieu, who has fumed over President Francois Hollande's plan to impose a 75% tax rate.

The men shook hands and hugged in the Black Sea resort of Sochi during what the Kremlin said was a private visit.

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"A brief meeting between the president and Depardieu took place," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that Depardieu also told Mr Putin about his career plans.

Mr Putin said last month that Depardieu would be welcome in Russia, which has a flat income tax rate of 13%. He said he had developed warm ties with the actor. Depardieu is popular in Russia, where he has appeared in many advertising campaigns, including one for ketchup.

He was greeted at the airport by local officials and women dressed in traditional Russian gowns who offered him bread and salt as well as "blini" pancakes. Residents also presented him with two kittens.