Winter Olympics 2014: Vladimir Putin turns on the charm as he drops into the USA House

The Russian leader was even sporting a Team USA badge for his visit

Vladimir Putin made a surprise appearance at the Team USA House in Sochi, when he stopped by for a glass of wine, even donning a 'Happy Valentine's Day from Team USA' pin on his lapel.

The Russian president spent about half an hour at USA House in Sochi's Olympic Park, sitting on a couch talking with US Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun and sipping red wine, before dropping into Canada's house next door.

His visit to USA House started with some American athletes saying "Welcome!" to him in Russian. He answered "Thanks!" in English, according to Russian news agencies.

He then asked how the American experience of Sochi had been so far.

"Naturally we will root for our own, but we know how many of our athletes play in the NHL," Putin told those present, according to the news agencies. "I promise you we have a lot of fans who love and know American players."

Mr Blackmun said: "Putin was very gracious. What I would remember is it sends a strong message about the importance of sport to Russia.

"We talked about mostly our impression of the games. He was very interested in knowing what we thought about the level of infrastructure, the level of services. ... We complimented him on the great operations so far.

"He was genuinely interested in whether we were having a quality experience at the games."

 

His seemingly friendly visit came in sharp contrast with the chilly state of political relations between Washington and Moscow over issues that include Ukraine, Syria, Edward Snowden, gay rights and human rights.

The Russian law banning the spread of gay propaganda among children has drawn strong international criticism ahead of the Games. President Barack Obama is not the attending the games. In what is seen as a snub, the US delegation to the Olympics does not include a president, former president, vice president or first lady for the first time since 2000. 

Major American companies such as Chevrolet have released adverts using gay couples and three sponsors of the US Olympic Committee, AT&T, DeVry University and yogurt maker Chobani, have spoken out against the so-called anti-gay law.

Putin's charm offensive came a week after Team USA bobsledder Johnny Quinn became stuck in a toilet and was forced to smash his way through the door, posting a photo of the aftermath on Twitter, using the hashtag #sochijailbreak.

Additional reporting by agencies

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor