Saturday March 2, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S.-based Jewish group in February rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion to house disputed historical collections of books and documents at a Jewish museum in Moscow.

Nathan Lewin, a lawyer for the Jewish group Chabad, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press that Chabad is the rightful owner and Putin’s proposal is not acceptable.

"The collection must be returned to the Agudas Chasidei Chabad library at Chabad’s worldwide headquarters in Brooklyn, New York," Lewin said.

Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court here last month fined Russia $50,000 a day until it returns the documents to Chabad. On Tuesday, at a meeting of government officials at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, Putin floated the idea of transferring them to the museum as a way to resolve the impasse. He said all the sides in the dispute should "strive not to inflame the situation but search for a solution," The New York Times reported.

Russian news agencies reported that Putin criticized Lamberth’s ruling, saying "discussion of this problem has taken on elements of confrontation." Russia claims the collections are state property. Last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the ruling "an absolutely unlawful and provocative decision" and threatened a tough response if U.S authorities try to seize Russian property in an attempt to get the fines.


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Russia had earlier halted all art exhibit loans to the U.S., fearing they would be seized and held hostage in the court battle.