Putin: Chabad texts will stay, perhaps in Jewish museum

(JTA) — Russia will not give disputed historical Jewish texts to the U.S. but may move them to Moscow’s newly-opened Jewish museum, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

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According to the law, the disputed Schneerson library does not belong to any religious group and is property of the Russian state, Putin told the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. 

Since 1991, leaders of a Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish group have been trying to regain possession of the library of Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson, who led the Chabad-Lubavitch movement before his death in 1950.

A U.S. judge in January ordered Russia to pay $50,000 a day in fines for failing to honor a 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to hand over the historic collection of 12,000 books and 50,000 documents to Chabad-Lubavitch in New York.

During his first visit on Feb. 19 to the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which opened last year, Putin said the collection may be moved from the archive of Moscow’s Lenin Library to the museum.

“We might think this over, I’m ready to draft relevant instructions for the government, so that this library could be placed on the center’s premises,” Putin said at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations held in the Jewish Museum.

Handing over cultural valuables might set a dangerous precedent and “open a Pandora’s box” of other, similar property claims, Putin said, according to RIA Novosti.

A member of the Jewish center’s board of trustees, Viktor Vekselberg, reportedly said the center was ready to accept and house the collection.