Vladimir Putin’s opponents often brand him a “thief” at street protests. Now the Kremlin is dismissing an American football team owner’s account of how the Russian president ended up with his diamond-encrusted Super Bowl ring when they met eight years ago.
According to the New York Post, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the audience at a recent awards ceremony that he had intended only to show Putin the ring, worth more than $25,000, but that Putin had pocketed it.
This story is actually old but has now come out again. Godfather Putin just can’t help himself. Whatever he wants he gets. Most of all he wants to be feared. The Super Bowl ring is a bonus.
Vladimir Putin: ‘the godfather of a mafia clan’ – Telegraph [Posted by Matt on May 31, 2012]
‘He’s a tiny, mean guy who will bite you if you get too close; and that’s the kind of country he’s tried to build. And that’s been the extent of Russian foreign policy for the last 12 years. What is Russia’s foreign policy agenda? You can’t figure it out from who Russia becomes friends with or sells arms to or negotiates with, because it’s really simple. Russia wants to be feared. That’s it.’
Gessen likens Putin to ‘the godfather of a mafia clan’ ruling Russia. And ‘like all mafia bosses, he barely distinguishes between his personal property, the property of his clan and the property of those beholden to his clan.’
Corruption has been virtually institutionalised under his regime. Last year the Transparency International ‘Corruptions Perception Index’ ranked Russia joint 143rd out of the 182 countries listed, along with Nigeria and Mauritania.
Putin’s own acquisitiveness is typified, Gessen says, in two apparently minor but telling incidents. In 2005, while hosting a group of American businessmen in St Petersburg, Putin pocketed a diamond-encrusted ring belonging to Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots American football team, after asking to try it on, and allegedly saying, ‘I could kill someone with this.’ After a flurry of articles in the US press, Kraft announced the ring had been a gift, preventing an uncomfortable situation from spiralling out of control.
Later that year, Putin was a guest at the Guggenheim museum in New York. At one point his hosts brought out a conversation piece – a glass replica of a Kalashnikov automatic weapon filled with vodka (which can be picked up in Russia for about $300). According to Gessen, Putin nodded to his bodyguards, who took the piece away, ‘leaving the hosts speechless’. ‘I do suspect it’s a compulsion,’ she says. ‘And another reason I suspect it’s a compulsion is because of the palace.’