Putin offers to buy New York Patriots owner Robert Kraft a Super Bowl ring
President offers to buy a replacement after team owner is quoted regretting his generosity
Associated Press in London
Russian President Vladimir Putin is denying insinuations that he stole New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's Super Bowl ring that is on display in the Kremlin, but says he is ready to buy Kraft another ring as a gift.
Putin was reacting on Sunday through a spokesman to a New York Post story quoting remarks made by Kraft at an awards gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in the city on Thursday last week.
"I took out the ring and showed it to (Putin). And he put it on and he goes, 'I can kill someone with this ring'," Kraft said, as quoted by the Post. "I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."
The diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring worth about US$25,000 changed hands while Kraft was visiting St Petersburg, Russia, in 2005 with an American business delegation that met Putin. At the time, Kraft had said he gave the ring to Putin as a gift.
But the Post story quoted Kraft as saying at Carnegie Hall's Medal of Excellence gala that he had an "emotional tie to the ring" and wanted it back, but the White House had said it would be in the interest of US-Russian relations to claim it was a gift.
Putin arrived in London on Sunday to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron, and spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the Post story.
"Back in 2005 I stood behind the president's back and I saw how that ring was presented to him. All that talk about some kind of pressure that was exerted on him (Kraft) should be the subject of a detailed talk with psychoanalysts, I think," Peskov said.
"At the same time, I am aware that this gentleman (Kraft) is feeling such a horrible pain about the 2005 loss. The president will be ready to send him another ring as a gift, which he (Putin) can buy with his own money."
Stacey James, a spokesman for the Kraft Group, the holding company for Kraft's business ventures, including the Patriots, said on Sunday the Post article should not be taken too seriously.
"It's a humorous, anecdotal story that Robert retells for laughs," James said in a statement. "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. In particular, he credits President Putin for modernising the Russian economy. An added benefit from the attention this story gathered eight years ago was the creation of some Patriots fan clubs in Russia."
The Super Bowl ring is on display in the Kremlin library along with other gifts to the Russian leader, according to Peskov.
Kraft can take some consolation because he has two other Super Bowl rings, which were given to him for his team's other NFL championships.