Gerard Depardieu Should Oversee Wine Production in Crimea, Russian Politician Says

Russian authorities want to see the French actor at the top of a state wine agency in the peninsular region, annexed from Ukraine earlier this year.

MOSCOW — Russian authorities are suggesting that French actor, Russian citizen and noted oenophile Gerard Depardieu be put in charge of the Crimea peninsular region's wine production.

Russian parliament members have addressed Sergei Aksyonov, head of Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine earlier this year, calling on him to create a local agency in charge of the wine industry and make Depardieu its head.

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The agency would develop strategies for the Crimean wine industry and control the market in a bid to use the region's wine-making potential to the fullest extent.

The Russian daily Izvestiya quoted parliament member Igor Zotov saying that the French actor, who obtained Russian citizenship in early 2013 and has visited Russia frequently over the last 18 months, would be the ideal candidate to helm the agency.

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"Today, Gerard is a symbol of not only French cinema and French charm, but also of the Russian soul's generosity," he said. "It would be good for the region if Depardieu, a globally known expert on wine production, headed a state agency or a public organization of Crimean winemakers. This would attract the attention of the Russian and global public to Crimean wine, which not only isn't inferior to products of the world's best known wine-making regions, in terms of quality, but is even superior to them in some aspects."

According to Zotov, a copy of the address was also sent to Depardieu, but he hasn't responded yet.

Last year, Ukrainian media published reports saying that Depardieu had purchased some vineyards in Crimea but did not provide any proof for its claims.

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Meanwhile, as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian military and separatist rebels, tensions between Russia and Western governments are on the increase. The U.S. government over the weekend released satellite images it said backed up its claims that rockets had been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and that Russian heavy artillery in support of the separatists has also crossed the border.

The U.K. government on Monday said the European Union was close to an agreement on applying tougher sanctions against Russia for its activities in the region. There is broad agreement among Western nations the missiles used to shoot down Malaysia Airline MH17 were supplied by Russia to separatist rebels in Ukraine.