Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots American football team, said that the Russian president took his diamond-encrusted Super Bowl winner’s ring at a business gathering in St Petersburg in 2005.
Speaking soon after the meeting, Kraft dismissed suggestions that he had not meant to give away the ring, which contains 124 diamonds.
He said that since Putin ‘was clearly taken with its uniqueness’, he ‘decided to give him the ring as a symbol of the respect and admiration that I have for the Russian people and the leadership of President Putin.’
Yet this was untrue, the chairman of the Kraft group admitted this week in a discussion about the ring — one of which is awarded to each member of the winning side in the annual championship match.
“I took out the ring and showed it to him, and he put it on and he goes, ‘I can kill someone with this ring’,” Kraft said at an event.
“I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.” Kraft, now 72, said that a White House staff member telephoned him to request that in the interests of US-Russian relations, he not publicly disclose that the ring had been taken against his will.
However, Putin’s spokesman denied accusations that the leader kept the ring.
“What Kraft is saying now is weird,” Dmitry Peskov said. “I was standing 20 centimetres away from him and Putin and saw and heard how Kraft gave this ring as a gift.”
The ring is in the Kremlin’s library, where all state gifts are kept, he said.