BOSTON -- Russian President Vladimir Putin walked off with
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's diamond-encrusted 2005
Super Bowl ring during a recent meeting with U.S. business
But not to worry: Kraft says the ring was a gift to Putin,
presented out of "respect and admiration."
Earlier, The Boston Globe had speculated that Kraft hadn't meant
to give away the ring.
"I showed the president my most recent Super Bowl ring," Kraft
said in a statement released Wednesday. The Russian president "was
clearly taken with its uniqueness," Kraft said.
"At that point, I 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," Kraft said.
Putin met with the businessmen Saturday at Konstantinovsky
Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia. Near the end of the meeting,
Kraft took off the ring, and handed it to Putin. Putin tried it on,
put it in his pocket and left, according to Russian news reports.
According to Patriots spokesman Stacey James, the ring which
is encrusted with 124 diamonds has a value of "substantially
more" than the previously reported $15,000.
A senior Kremlin official, Dmitry Peskov, told The Associated
Press that Putin had given the ring to the Kremlin library where
other foreign gifts are kept.
Kraft's business interests include paper and packaging companies
and venture capital investments. He handed out Super Bowl rings to
players and coaches at his home two weeks ago.
The Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls.