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Depardieu accused of breaking Georgian law with Abkhazia trip

Actor Gerard Depardieu attends a news conference to present the 1st edition of a Russian Film Festival in Nice June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Ga
Actor Gerard Depardieu attends a news conference to present the 1st edition of a Russian Film Festival in Nice June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Ga

TBILISI (Reuters) - French-born actor Gerard Depardieu broke the law in Georgia by visiting the country's breakaway Abkhazia region and meeting separatist leaders without warning national authorities, an official said on Wednesday.

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, deputy minister for reintegration in the Caucasus state bordering Russia, said the action was punishable but signaled he was unlikely to face arrest.

"We think he does not know what's going on in Abkhazia," she said.

The 64-year-old star of films such as "Green Card" and "Cyrano de Bergerac" was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin in January after criticizing a planned 75-percent tax on millionaires in France.

Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and the separatist region of South Ossetia after waging a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008. Georgia and most other countries do not recognize them as independent states.

Depardieu also raised eyebrows by visiting Russia's Chechnya region in February and embracing strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Human rights groups have accused security services in Chechnya of carrying out kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings to try to quash an Islamist insurgency. Kadyrov denies the charges.

France's best-known actor, whose lifestyle and outlandish behavior has made more headlines than his film career in recent years, was bitterly criticized for abandoning his homeland when he received a hug and a passport from Putin.

But Depardieu, who owns a vineyard in the Loire valley, has said he did not leave for tax reasons. He has been filming a thriller called "Turquoise" in Moscow and Chechnya with British actress Elizabeth Hurley.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Ralph Boulton)

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