The next time you visit Vladimir Putin, leave the good jewelry at home.
The Russian president has an eye for the bling: In 2005, he admired — and pocketed — a $25,000 Super Bowl ring with 124 diamonds owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Putin walked off with his ring, Kraft said last week, and the White House let him get away with it to avoid an international incident.
But a spokesman for Putin told CNN Sunday that the ring was clearly a present. “What Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird,” Dmitry Peskov said. “I was standing 20 centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift.” The Russian president does not wear the ring, he said: it’s on display at the Kremlin’s library, where all official state gifts are kept.
That’s not how Kraft remembers it. The NFL owner claims he met the Putin during a meeting of top corporate execs in St. Petersburg, reports the New York Post. Kraft was showing off his oversized bling when Putin slipped it on his finger and said, “I can kill someone with this ring,” Kraft said he put his hand out to get it back when Putin “put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”
Kraft wanted the ring back — sentimental value, engraved name — and asked the Bush White House to intervene. But he said U.S. officials were afraid that pressing Putin to return the ring would endanger relations between the two countries and urged Kraft to say he meant to give it to Putin. Sacked, as they say in football.
Update, 9 a.m. Monday: A rep for the Patriots said late Sunday that Kraft’s tale is just a joke: “He loves that his ring is at the Kremlin and, as he stated back in 2005, he continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin.” Oh, they got to him, didn’t they?