Russian President Fights Back; Claims He Didn't Steal Ring

By: CNN Email
By: CNN Email

Moscow (CNN) -- Russia's president is fighting back: No, he did not steal a Super Bowl ring. And no, he's not rocking the diamond-encrusted prize on his finger, either.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman denied that the leader kept a Super Bowl ring that New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft wanted back.

Both sides agree that the ring, with its 124 diamonds, changed hands during Kraft's visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005.

The New York Post reported on remarks made by Kraft, 72, at a New York awards gala Thursday.

"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, according to the New York Post. "I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out."

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, says his ring was taken in 2005.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin is a popular but polarizing figure who has dominated Russian politics for more than a decade. Click through to see some highlights of his career.

Putin serves as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the City Council in St. Petersburg from 1991 to 1994. Before becoming involved in politics, he served in the KGB, a Soviet-era spy agency, as an intelligence officer.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin, right, shakes hands with Putin during a farewell ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 31, 1999. Putin rose quickly through the political ranks, becoming the second democratically elected president of the Russian Federation in 2000.

President-elect Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea on April 6, 2000. He has been at the helm during a decade of Russian economic growth fueled by natural resources of gas and oil.

A Russian cadet snaps a picture with Putin in Moscow's Red Square on May 9, 2007, during an annual celebration of the end of World War II. Putin has pushed to modernize Russia's military.

Putin attends an inauguration ceremony for president-elect Dmitry Medvedev at Moscow's Kremlin on May 7, 2008. Putin was constitutionally obliged to stand down as president but stayed close to power, becoming prime minister.

Putin vacations outside the town of Kyzyl in Southern Siberia in 2009. Over the years he has earned a reputation as a "strongman," declaring a crackdown on Chechen militants a priority in his first presidential term.

President Barack Obama meets Prime Minister Putin at his home in Novo Ogaryovo, near Moscow, on July 7, 2009. Putin said Russia was pinning its hopes on Obama to revive ties with the United States.

A worker takes down a giant elections poster bearing a portrait of Putin on October 13, 2009, in Moscow. Putin's party tightened its grip on Russian politics with a sweeping victory in local elections, officials said, as the opposition alleged widespread fraud.

Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin ski together in Krasnaya Polyana, near the Black Sea resort of Sochi in southern Russia, on January 3, 2010.

Putin takes part in a judo training session at a sports complex in St. Petersburg, on December 22, 2010. The Russian leader holds a black belt in judo.

Putin receives a medical consultation during his visit to the Smolensk Regional Hospital on August 25, 2011. Putin said he hurt his shoulder during morning judo practice.

Putin speaks to supporters at a Moscow rally on February 23, 2012. He won the presidential election in March, with just under 65% of the vote. Former President Medvedev became his prime minister.

A topless protester shouts at Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, during their visit to the Hanover Industrial Fair in central Germany on April 8, 2013. Human rights groups say civil liberties and democratic freedoms have suffered during Putin's rule.

Putin addresses the media during his visit to Hanover on April 8, 2013.

Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, ended their nearly 30-year marriage, the state-run news agency reported on June 6.

Photos: Putin in power Photos: Putin in power

In the quotes used by the Post, Kraft did not specifically say that Putin stole the ring; the paper characterized his remarks that way in the headline and story. Kraft did say, however, that he had wanted the ring back. "I had an emotional tie to the ring. It has my name on it."

The Patriots' owner said he then received a call from the White House at the time telling him it would be in the best interest of U.S.-Russian relations to claim it was a gift to Putin, the Post reported. Kraft said Thursday he played along.

A few days after the 2005 incident, amid confusion as to whether the ring was a present or was kept by mistake, Kraft issued a statement saying it was a gift.

That's the way Putin sees it, the president's spokesman said Sunday.

"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 4.94-carat ring is in the Kremlin's library, where all official state gifts are kept, he said. It is worth more than $25,000, according to multiple reports from 2005.

A Kraft spokesman said Sunday the story is a humorous anecdote that Kraft "retells for laughs."

"He loves that the 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," said Stacey James, a spokesman for The Kraft Group.

"An added benefit from the attention this story gathered eight years ago was the creation of some Patriots fan clubs in Russia," he said.

There is some solace for Kraft, as he also received rings for the Patriots' Super Bowl victories in the 2001 and 2003 seasons.

Super Bowl rings can fetch much more when they are auctioned, depending on who wore them. The 1991 Super Bowl ring of Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor sold last year at auction for more than $230,000. There were rumors Charlie Sheen bought the ring, but the actor denied it.

At least one ring has been used to raise money for charity. In 2008, former Patriots defensive player Je'Rod Cherry raffled off one of his three rings to raise $150,000 for several children's charities.

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