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Oh, Hello There! Putin Visits USA House in Sochi

<p>Team USA gets a visit from a high-profile guest.</p>
Image: President Vladimir Putin Visits USA House
SNBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst visit USA House in the Olympic Village on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Marianna Massey / Getty Images

SOCHI, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped in Friday at Team USA House at the Sochi Olympics.

The visit was confirmed in a tweet from the U.S. Olympic team:

Putin has cultivated a friendly image at an Olympics meant to showcase his country’s resurrection from post-Soviet collapse. Earlier in the games, he raised a toast with Dutch athletes, visited Austria House and took in figure skating.

Even in an atmosphere of Olympic goodwill, the visit to USA House, a building just off Olympic Park in Sochi where athletes and their families mingle with VIPs, was remarkable. The United States and Russia have butted heads over a number of issues, including the upheaval in Ukraine and Russia’s treatment of gays.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both skipped the games, and Obama pointedly sent a ceremonial delegation that included three openly gay former Olympians.

The visit caused something of a scene. An American luge athlete, Chris Mazdzer, tweeted a photo with the Russian leader in the background:

And it wasn’t long after that that Putin turned up nearby at Canada House. This tweet was posted by Hayley Wickenheiser of the Canadian hockey team: