NEW: The story is just a humorous anecdote, a Kraft spokesman says
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he got the ring as a gift
It belonged to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft
Putin was handed the ring during Kraft's visit to St. Petersburg in 2005
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.”
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.
CNN’s Alla Eshchenko reported from Moscow, and Faith Karimi reported and wrote from Atlanta.