The mighty British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported online that the French actor was invited to become culture minister of 'a Siberian region notorious for its Stalin-era prison camps'.
Anyone got an atlas as 'Gerard Depardieu offered post of culture minister in Siberia'? Picture: Echo of Moscow
The same claim appeared in its print edition and also ran in the respected Irish Independent newspaper.
After collecting his new Russian passport and meeting President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, on the Black Sea, the actor flew to Mordovia and its capital Saransk where he was offered the vacant culture minister's seat, reported the Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk).
Only one problem here. The newspaper has given Siberia an extra couple of time zones in a westerly direction to put Mordovia into our vast territory.
In fact, Mordovia, as the newspaper says, is a mere 438 miles south-east of Moscow. It is on the same time zone as the Russian capital.
Mordovia is well to the west of the Ural Mountains which are usually seen as the geographical divide between European Russia and Siberia. The paper also pointed out that Mordovia 'was known during Stalin's reign for its network of gulag prison camps'. These were 'still Mordavia's principal employer'.
Last time we looked while both Mordovia and parts of Siberia do, like everywhere, still have prisons (in Siberia's case surprisingly few these days), the gulags - despite an erroneous Western impression - are thankfully long gone.