17 January 2013, 17:41
Putin's representative perplexed by U.S. court ruling on Schneerson collection
Moscow, January 17, Interfax - Russian presidential representative for international cultural cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy is perplexed by a U.S. court order on the so-called Schneerson collection, as he thought Russia and the United States had earlier settled the problem.
"Russia earlier honored all agreements on this issue. The problem was discussed within the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission's framework, and we reached quite a reasonable compromise with the American side then," Shvydkoy told Interfax on Thursday.
"We set up the Center of Oriental Literature at the Russian State Library, where, in particular, the Schneerson collection is stored, and it is accessible to any citizens, including Russian and others. A prayer room was also set up there, where religious cults can be observed," he said.
"I had assumed the issue was settled," Shvydkoy said.
A U.S. district court in Washington ruled on January 16, 2013, to oblige Russia to pay $50,000 a day as a fine until the Schneerson collection is returned to Chabad-Lubavitch based on a 2010 court order. The judge issued this ruling even despite the fact that the U.S. Justice Department urged him "not to issue the civil contempt fines. The department argued that fines won't help resolve the dispute, would be counterproductive, and would hurt U.S. foreign policy interests," the Wall Street Journal reported.
Russia is not going to break its own laws to comply with U.S. court rulings, Shvydkoy said. "Transferring books from the Russian State Library violates the law, it is prohibited," he said.
Shvydkoy called the U.S. court ruling "unfriendly and upsetting," which will harm not only Russia but also the United States.
"The result that we have now following years of attempts to reach a reasonable compromise is certainly bad for us, too, but it is bad primarily for the U.S. We have already suspended loans of any museum valuables that were to be exhibited in the U.S., and now we will have to give a similar response," he said.
Shvydkoy called the U.S. court's ruling encroachment on Russia's sovereignty. "Such a decision made in relation to a sovereign state encroaches on its sovereignty. The Justice Department and the State Department should understand the consequences of such steps, but the executive branch has distanced itself from this problem, citing the strict separation of powers and inappropriateness of pressure on a court," Shvydkoy said.