Gerard Depardieu given hand-scything lesson by Belarus leader

President Alexander Lukashenko and French actor Gerard Depardieu (right) hold a hand scythe. Photo: 22 July 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Lukashenko (left), a former farm director, showed Mr Depardieu how to hold a hand scythe

French actor Gerard Depardieu has been given a lesson in hand-scything by Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko during a surprise visit.

Mr Lukashenko, once described by US officials as "Europe's last dictator", hosted Mr Depardieu in his residence near the capital Minsk.

The visit comes ahead of Belarus's presidential elections, which Mr Lukashenko is widely expected to win.

In 2013 Mr Depardieu received a Russian passport from President Vladimir Putin.

The actor had decided to leave France to avoid paying higher taxes.

He has described Russia as "a great democracy".

'Security threat'

During Wednesday's visit to Belarus, the 66-year-old actor and the president, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, also discussed the cultivation of organic food products.

The Belarusian leader was once a farm director.

And Mr Depardieu was treated to traditional Belarusian food and home-made vodka, reports say.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Depardieu had a first-hand experience of a hard day's work on the farm
Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Lukashenko and Mr Depardieu also discussed the cultivation of organic food products

The actor has recently been criticised by the Ukrainian authorities for supporting Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ukraine's security services are now reportedly checking whether his comments pose a threat to the country's security.

Mr Depardieu's highly publicised tax row began in 2012 after President Francois Hollande said he would raise taxes to 75% for those earning more than €1m (£705,000; $1.1m).

The actor accused the socialist government of punishing "success, creation and talent", and announced he would move to Belgium.

His decision was described by French officials as "shabby and unpatriotic".

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