Disputed Chabad Jewish texts stay in Russia to avoid precedent, Putin says

By Reuters Staff
February 21, 2013

(Latvian passport picture of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, 1933)

A disputed collection of Jewish writings will remain in Russia because returning it to a New York-based group would set a precedent paving the way for more such claims dating back to Soviet times, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Dispute over the Jewish books and documents claimed by the Chabad-Lubavitch group adds to tensions between Moscow and Washington, which have seen ties deteriorate over human rights and security issues since Putin’s return to the Kremlin in May.

“The Schneerson Collection belongs to Russia,” Putin said in a grand new Jewish museum in Moscow, in referring to texts held in Russian libraries and archives, some of them confiscated by the Soviet Union from Nazi forces during World War Two.

A Washington judge in January ordered Russia to pay $50,000 a day in fines for failure to adhere to a 2010 ruling to return the collection, triggering angry reaction from Moscow, which called the decision “absolutely unlawful and provocative”.

“If we now open a Pandora’s box and start satisfying similar requests, there will be no end to these claims. Maybe one day we will be able to do this, but now we are absolutely not ready for this. This is impossible,” Putin said.

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