AS IF he didn’t have enough on his plate, what with David Cameron trying to arm the Syrian rebels against his wishes, Vladimir Putin has had to defend himself against a charge of daylight robbery.
It follows a claim that the Russian president stole a souvenir Super Bowl ring from the American tycoon Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.
Kraft told an awards gala at New York's Carnegie Hall that during a visit to St Petersburg in 2005 he showed Putin the 4.94-carat, diamond-encrusted ring – and Putin immediately pocketed it.
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"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 his audience. Then, he says, Putin calmly popped it in his pocket.
According to the New York Post, Kraft tried to get the White House to help him recover the ring – but they advised him to treat it as a gift.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he was actually there (as was Rupert Murdoch, incidentally) when Kraft handed over the ring and it was clearly meant as a gift. Any suggestion, said Peskov, that Kraft was put under pressure should be an issue for "detailed discussion with psychoanalysts".
Peskov, in London with Putin, before heading to the G8 summit, told reporters: "If the gentleman is really experiencing such excruciating pain from his loss... the president is ready to send him any other ring he can buy for that kind of money."
As the Daily Telegraph explains, the ring is worth about $25,000. It was one of 70 given to the Patriots after they won the Super Bowl in February 2005.
Kraft is trying to play it down. A spokesperson said he was very happy that his ring was at the Kremlin and that it was a "humorous, anecdotal story that Robert retells for laughs".
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