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A spokesman for Vladimir Putin maintains that the Russian President received Robert Kraft's Super Bowl ring in 2005 as a gift and said the New England Patriots' owner's claims that Putin took it without permission is "weird."
|Vladimir Putin holds the diamond-encrusted Super Bowl XXXIX ring belonging to Patriots owner Robert Kraft when the two met in 2005.|
Kraft, who was honored at Carnegie Hall's Medal of Excellence gala at the Waldorf-Astoria on Thursday, told the crowd at the event that Putin took his Super Bowl XXXIX ring when the Patriots' owner visited St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2005, even though he released a statement at the time saying he gave the ring to Putin as a gift.
"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 told the crowd, 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."
A spokesman for Putin, however, told CNN on Sunday that the ring was definitely given as a gift.
"What Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird," Dmitry Peskov told CNN. "I was standing 20 centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift."
Peskov told CNN that the ring now is at the Kremlin's library.
A spokesman for the Kraft Group released a statement Sunday, clarifying Kraft's remarks, noting that Sandy Weill, who is the board of trustees chairman of Carnegie Hall, introduced Kraft on Thursday night and was with the Patriots owner on the trip to Russia in 2005.
"It's a humorous, anecdotal story that Robert re-tells for laughs. 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," the statement said. "In particular, he credits President Putin for modernizing 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.
"On Thursday night, Kraft told the crowd that he really wanted the 4.94-carat bauble back, admitting he'd gotten a call from the George W. Bush-run White House, saying, 'It would really be in the best interest of United States-Soviet relations if you meant to give the ring as a present.' "
This wasn't the first time the story surfaced, as Kraft's late wife, Myra, said in 2007 that the ring wasn't intended to be a gift.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss contributed to this report.