How Vladimir Putin Stole Cookies From a Scottish Bakery

In April 1991, the future war criminal Vladimir Putin visited the UK as part of a Leningrad delegation led by then-mayor Anatoly Sobchak. They engaged with officials and entrepreneurs in London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.

In the prior year, they had successfully obtained £20 million from the UK government for Leningrad projects, equivalent to £55 million in 2023 terms. By a surprising coincidence, Vladimir Putin oversaw the fund’s spending. Now, he and his boss were on a mission to find potential partners.

Vladimir Putin (standing) with East Lothian Council chairman George Wanless (left) and Mayor of Leningrad Anatoly Sobchak.

(Years later, both Sobchak and Putin faced allegations of channelling funds from Russia to the UK and purchasing properties in France.)

Yet, the most memorable takeaway for Putin personally from the UK trip probably wasn’t a business deal but a spontaneous theft from a Scottish bakery they were courting for business in Leningrad.

The owner recalled, “Putin spotted a plate of Penguin biscuits on the table, went over, picked up a handful and had them in his jacket pocket in a flash. He didn’t even look around to see if anyone was watching and carried on as though nothing had happened.”

It certainly wasn’t the last of Putin’s crimes. In 2005, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was in Russia. Kraft had just received his Super Bowl ring, so he decided to show this $25,000 piece of jewellery to Putin.

“I took out the ring and showed it to Putin, and he put it on, and he goes, ‘I can kill someone with this ring,’” Kraft said. “I put my hand out, and he put it in his pocket, and three KGB guys got around him and walked out.”

Elia Kabanov is a science writer covering the past, present and future of technology (@metkere)

Illustration: Elia Kabanov feat. Midjourney.