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Putin: Kraft’s Super Bowl Ring was a Gift

(CNN) — When you think of “international incident,” you may not think of this. Eight years ago, Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly gave his Super Bowl ring to visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Now, Kraft says, actually, Putin stole the ring. The Russian head of state denies it.

It was the theft heard around the world…or was it? The real story’s still a mystery.

Did Russian President Vladimir Putin steal a Super Bowl ring from Kraft?

Kraft says yes.

“I’m tremendously humbled by this great honor,” Kraft notes while accepting the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence.

At that event is where Kraft brought up the story, which first surfaced in 2005. That’s when Kraft met with Putin in St. Petersburg.

Kraft says he showed Putin his shiny new $25,000 diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring, engraved with his name on it, when Putin said, according to Kraft at the gala: “He goes, “I can kill someone with this ring.’ I put my hand out and he put it in his pocket and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”

So Putin swiped it? Not according to one aide who says he was a witness.

In a statement to CNN, Putin’s spokesman said, “I was there when it happened. So what Mr. Kraft is saying now is weird. I was standing 20 centimeters away from him and Mr. Putin and saw and heard how Mr. Kraft gave this ring as a gift.”

According to the New York Post, which first broke the story, Kraft said that White House officials urged him to say it was a gift, in the interest of “U.S.-Soviet relations” and in a statement back then, Kraft said the same.

Stacy James, spokesperson for Kraft Sports Group, adds, “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.”

Which still doesn’t answer the lingering question: Was it a gift or a lift?

2005 was the Bush administration and on Sunday, CNN caught up with former Vice President Dick Cheney. “I don’t know anything about it. I just heard a brief blurb on it this morning,” he says.

A spokesman for Kraft says one benefit of the ring being in the Kremlin all these years is the Patriots now have a few fan clubs in Russia.

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