Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was ready to offer French movie star Gerard Depardieu a Russian passport to resolve his tax row, calling him a friend.
"If Gerard really wants to have a residency permit in Russia or a Russian passport, we can consider this issue resolved positively," Putin said at his first major news conference after his return to the Kremlin in a March election.
The website of Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday quoted Depardieu as telling friends that "Putin has already sent me a passport".
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the report by telling AFP that "most likely he was joking".
Depardieu on Sunday threatened to give up his French passport and take up Belgian citizenship to protest at the Socialist government's new tax hike on the rich.
But Putin questioned whether Depardieu really wanted to give up his French citizenship.
"I understand the feelings of Gerard Depardieu, but even though he said... that he considers himself a European, a citizen of the world, I know for a fact, since we have a very friendly, personal relationship, that he considers himself a Frenchman," Putin said.
"He loves his country very much," he said. "I am sure he is going through tough times."
Depardieu made the threat to renounce his citizenship after French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called him "pathetic" for making Belgium his formal place of residence, a move meant to help the actor avoid the French tax.