NEW YORK, June 16 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman denied allegations Putin pocketed a Super Bowl ring belonging to the owner of the New England Patriots in 2005.
Robert Kraft told an audience in New York last week he had not really wanted to give the diamond-encrusted ring to Putin when the pair met in St. Petersburg, Russia, but Putin boldly stuck it into his pocket and walked away.
"I put my hand out and he put it (the ring) in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and they walked out," Kraft said Thursday at the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence gala, the New York Post said.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN he was there when the exchange was made, and it appeared Kraft was clearly giving it to the Russian president. "What Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird," Peskov said. "I was standing 20 centimeters (7.8 inches) away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift."
Kraft said he did not press the issue in part because the George W. Bush White House stepped in and urged him to let it slide in the interest of the U.S. relationship with Russia and Putin. Kraft indeed issued a statement at the time calling the ring a "gift" to Putin; however he told the Post: "I had an emotional tie to the ring, it has my name on it. I don't want to see it on eBay."
The Post said the 4.94-carat diamond ring is currently at the Kremlin library along with a trove of other official gifts presented to Russian leaders, the Post said.