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

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