Putin offers ring to make peace with Patriots football owner
ST PETERSBURG, Russia
ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling a truce in the War of the Ring - sort of.
Accused of pocketing a diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft showed him back in 2005, Putin came up with a peace offering, albeit barbed.
"You know, I remember neither Mr Kraft nor a ring," Putin said when asked about the incident during an economic forum on Friday in St Petersburg - the city where the ring saga started.
"I remember some souvenirs were handed out. But if it is so precious to Kraft and the team, I have a proposal," Putin said - he would ask a Russian jeweler to make "something really good, noticeable - so that it is clear that it is an expensive thing, with good metal and a stone."
The Russian ring could "be handed down from generation to generation of the team that Mr Kraft represents", he said, and would be "the smartest, most partner-like solution to this difficult international issue."
In a statement back in 2005, Kraft said he had decided to give Putin the ring as a gesture of goodwill.
But the matter resurfaced last week when the New York Post reported that Kraft had told an award ceremony audience recently he had intended only to show Putin the ring, but that the Russian leader had taken it and not given it back.
"I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out," the Post quoted Kraft as saying of the ring he wore after the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl in February 2005.
He was quoted as saying Putin had remarked that he could "kill someone" with the hefty ring.
Around 70 Super Bowl rings are given to the winning team in the annual American football championship.
The New York Post reported that Kraft said he had wanted the ring back but that the White House, then under President George W. Bush, had told him it would be better for relations with Moscow if he treated it as a gift.
While the Kremlin has been at pains to parry the Post report - Putin's spokesman said on Sunday the ring at issue had clearly been meant as a gift - Kraft may actually be taking the incident less seriously.
A statement on the National Football League website earlier this week quoted the Patriots as saying the tale of Putin and the ring is one Kraft likes to tell for laughs.
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Mark Heinrich)