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Russian prez pockets Kraft's Super Bowl ring

BOSTON (June 29, 2005) -- 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 executives.

But not to worry: Kraft says the ring was a gift to Putin, presented out of "respect and admiration."

Earlier, Russian media 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. 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 June 25 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.

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