The Hasidic movement had decided to seek the arrest of Russian assets in the United States

In 2010, the court of the district of Columbia, USA, ordered Russia to the American community Lubavitcher Hasidim collection of books and manuscripts of the family of the leaders of the Jewish Hasidic movement “Chabad”, the center of which was located in the town of Lubavitch, Mogilev province Russian Empire (now Smolensk oblast). The decision was the result of six years of proceedings from which Russia unilaterally withdrew in 2009.

Then the U.S. Supreme court imposed on Russia a fine at the rate of $50 thousand per day, increasing until the collection will not be transferred to the Complainant. As of 1 November 2016, its size reached $64,6 million, estimated . The fine is small, especially when compared to the $50 billion trying to recover from Russia, the former shareholders of Yukos. But the main threat to the authorities that “Chabad” is now seeking the disclosure of potentially sensitive information and assets of Russia officials, including President Vladimir Putin, appears from court documents in the United States in the case of “Agudas Chabad Chassidim against the Russian Federation”, were studied .

“The Russians recognize the strength of”

Attempts to force the defendant to recover the penalty or compensation, which he refuses to pay voluntarily, is normal practice. The unusual approach “Chabad” is that they chose a target of Russian assets already frozen in the United States in the framework of the “Ukrainian” sanctions program.

Last summer, lawyers for the Hasidim asked the U.S. Treasury information about the assets frozen under the sanctions against Russia, and at the end of the year sent subpoenas of five U.S. financial institutions — JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Computershare Inc. and Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (the subsidiary of the German Deutsche Bank), which can have these assets. As previously wrote The Wall Street Journal, these banks are under US sanctions against Russia were blocked by $637 million of Russian banks, including joint-stock Bank Rossiya, which the U.S. Treasury called “the personal Bank for senior Russian officials.”

All five financial institutions assets frozen under anti-Russian sanctions, which gives good reason to believe that these assets belong to the government or controlled by them, have followed from the petition of lawyers of “Chabad”.

“We want to do everything possible to identify the assets that could be seized and arrested”, — explained the motives of the Chabad community lawyer Steven Lieberman from the law firm Rothwell, Figg, Ernst & Manbeck in the hearings in August 2015 (transcript of the hearings have). “The Russians recognize the power. They recognize the power. And we ask the court to give us exactly what we ask you to give us the means to increase the pressure [on Russia],” said he then. The aim of such action is the coercion of Russia to transfer the books, not the recovery of a fine, noted at the same meeting, another lawyer of the community, Nathan Levin.

“Good pickup”

Then the representative of Chabad told the court that the U.S. Treasury responded to a query, providing to the community “very useful information which gives a good lay” in relation to those assets, including some belonging to Bank “Russia”. The representative of the US Treasury refused to comment on the information about the blocked Russian assets.

In the subpoenas, the lawyers demanded that the American banks, first, to provide documents related to accounts opened in the United States and in other countries around the world that banks are in the interest of or on behalf of the Russian Federation. In particular, the plaintiffs are seeking account “of the Russian Federation < … > and any of its organs or agencies, representatives, affiliated with the state companies, their subsidiaries, predopredeleno, successors, alter-egos, agents, subjects of the Federation < … > and all those acting or intending to act for or on behalf of the Russian Federation”, including various Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin.

Second, the “Chabad” has required banks to provide documents related to frozen accounts and assets of the companies or individuals included in the sanctions lists in connection with the situation in Ukraine.

Initially, five representatives of financial institutions expressed their willingness to provide the requested information, should be directed to the court declarations of the advocates of a religious movement, but soon changed their position. The reason for this was the intervention of the American government, which, oddly enough, took the side of Russia in the question of the inviolability of its assets.

Washington on the side of Moscow

3 February 2016, the US administration has submitted to the court a statement of the existence of interest in Chabad V. Russian Federation. In his statement, White house officials cited numerous legal and diplomatic arguments on the basis of which, in their opinion, the court should deny Chabad the right to demand information disclosure on Russian state assets in the United States, and the agenda focused community of five American banks to recognize the void. Thus, the U.S. government is not party to this process, actually came to the defense of Russian assets at the disposal of the American financial institutions. Its decision they explained by the need to protect American national interests. The court recognized the existence of U.S. national interests in this case, it follows from the published court rulings and Memorandum. But the final decision is still no.

According to the American authorities, “Chabad” is not entitled to seek the disclosure of information about Russian assets as part of the Federal code of civil procedure of the United States. First, these assets can’t foreclose to collect a fine imposed for the refusal to transfer the “Schneerson collection” because the U.S. law on sovereign immunity of foreign States (Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act) excludes the possibility of collecting fines from foreign countries; in addition, according to this law the property of foreign States located on the territory of the United States, extends judicial immunity.

Secondly, decisions on penalties shall not be executed outside of the United States because it is “contrary to international law and practice”. In particular, Russia is a party to the UN Convention on jurisdictional immunities of States and their property, which States that the refusal of the state to execute the decision of the court of another state does not incur a penalty or punishment by reason of such failure. Representatives of the US administration noted in court documents that, “although this Convention has not entered into force, many of its provisions reflect existing international standards and practices.” According to representatives of the US administration, more than 40 States support a ban on the collection of monetary penalties with other States and the imposition of penalties on their property, and no country has never sanctioned such action.

Finally, attempts to levy a fine on Russia by the arrest of its assets can significantly impair foreign policy interests of the United States, and also reduce the chances of the settlement agreement in this process, said representatives of the American government.

The Kremlin is unknown

The result of the intervention of the US administration JP Morgan Chase and Citibank asked the court to release them from the obligation to fulfill the requirements of the summons before the court decision at the request of the government. In February 2016, Deutsche Bank also refused “to provide any information in response to a subpoena until such time as the court did not render a decision on the objections presented by the US administration”, the letter of the representative Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas lawyers “Chabad”.

In addition to the five financial institutions lawyers “Chabad”, was summoned by the American company Ketchum, one of the largest global PR agencies (part of the Omnicom communications group) in order to obtain the documents on cooperation with Russia Ketchum, it follows from the court. Ketchum almost seven years (since 2007) provided services to “Gazprom” and received for his work more than $30 million, the contract ended in 2014, wrote. Since 2006, Ketchum worked for the Russian government, in particular, successfully lobbied the choice of Vladimir Putin “Person of the year 2007” by Time magazine, noted the Reuters news Agency in September 2013. Cooperation Ketchum and the Russian government ended in late 2014. For their services Ketchum received at least $23 million, the documents in the case of “Chabad” against Russia.”

In addition, in April 2015, “Chabad” was given a summons Sberbank CIB USA, the American division of the investment business of Sberbank of Sberbank CIB. Representatives of the movement requested documents on under the management of Sberbank CIB USA Russian state assets. Sberbank USA also asked the court to protect him from having to disclose any information requested by Chabad.

The Kremlin is known about the attempts of the movement “Chabad” to find and arrest the Russian property in the United States, said the press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov.

Based in new York, the movement “Agudas Chabad Chassidim” refused to discuss the case against Russia. Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Citibank and the press service of Sberbank CIB declined to comment. JP Morgan Chase did not respond for a request , contact Computershare Inc. (American registry of stock) failed. waiting for responses from the Bank “Russia”, the Ministry of foreign Affairs and the Russian state military archive. “The justice Ministry has no information about the arrests assets of the Russian Federation on the territory of the United States. In case of receiving relevant information will be taken appropriate measures for the legal protection of interests of the Russian Federation”, — stated in the reply of Department of public relations of the Ministry of justice. The Ministry of foreign Affairs in comments 2010 emphasized that the U.S. court ruling authorizing the transfer of the collection of “Chabad”, is “null and void from a legal point of view, which is a gross violation of generally accepted norms and principles of international law”.


Certificate of collection

“Schneerson collection” — the collection of books and manuscripts of the family of the leaders of the Lubavitcher Hasidim. The library began to take shape during the life of the founder of the movement of Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Belarus) from the end of XVIII century and going up to 1915. During the First world war, when Lubavitch was in a war zone, a part of the library was moved to Moscow, where he was placed in storage bookstore Persica and Polyakov. With the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in Russia this part of the meeting Schneerson, was nationalized. After the revolution of 1917 she was transferred to the Rumyantsev Museum, later renamed the State library of the USSR. Lenin (now the RSL).

In Russian books and manuscripts from the “Schneerson collection” are on balance of the Russian state library, and Russian state military archive (formerly Central state archive of the red Army).

Books from the collection on the balance of RGB in 2013 are stored in Fund of the Department of the Russian state library in Jewish Museum and tolerance center. In February 2013 President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the presidential Council for interethnic relations in response to the question Viktor Vekselberg proposed to move the meeting from the library of the Jewish Museum and tolerance center. In June 2013 Putin attended the opening of the new library Department of the Jewish Museum, which received the book “collection of Schneerson”. Books remain on the balance sheet of the RSL.

Their total 4425 volumes that represent 4616 storage units, said the head of the Russian state library in Jewish Museum Svetlana khvostova. “Two or three units of storage can physically be a single buildable volume cover — the so-called convolute — said Khvostov. — In the “collection of Schneerson” there are convolutes quite a lot”.

Manuscripts, on the balance of RGB are Fund No. 182 “the Collection of manuscripts in the Hebrew language” in the building of the RSL. Their total of 146 documents. Among them are collections of sermons in the handwriting of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Schneerson books, copied by hand by scribes, and simple personal letters and documents. Books and manuscripts in the Russian state library, written in Hebrew, Yiddish and German. They are all digitized and available online.

Documents Yosef Yitzchak schneersohn, on the balance of the Military archives, collected in a separate Fund No. 706 (98 cases from 6 thousand to 9 thousand sheets). Is the correspondence of family members of the Schneerson (Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, German, Polish) and photos. These manuscripts were taken by Yosef Schneerson, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, from Russia to Riga in 1927, and then to Poland in 1934. After the occupation of Poland by the Nazis in 1939 they were taken to Germany. After the Second world war, this part of the Schneerson library was delivered to Moscow the captured crews and transferred to the Central state archive of the red Army (since 1992 — the Russian state military archive). Manuscript in the Military archives available to the public in the reading room in the form of “digital copies”, said the Deputy Director of the rsma Lyudmila Sakharova.

The vast majority of books from the Schneerson library are a prayer book, edition of the Torah and its commentary, Halakhic texts (devoted to Jewish religious law), Kabbalistic and Hasidic writings, that is, intended for religious study or ritual use, explains the chief librarian of the RSL Jewish Museum and tolerance center Ekaterina Oleshkevich. There are a few books of a more secular nature (novels in Yiddish, the translation of the old Testament in German, dictionaries, etc.), adds Oleshkevich. Genre analysis final collection is scheduled for publication in the printed catalogue of the library of Schneerson, scheduled for 2018-2019.

During the First world war, leaving part of the collection in Moscow (now kept in the Russian state library), Shneerson took Rostov, about 100 volumes of the library. These hundred books are now in the library of Chabad in new York.


Why Hasidim books?

“Schneerson collection” is indeed the most sacred value for the Hasidic movement “Chabad” because these books used or even touched them the Tzadik (lit. the righteous) from the dynasty of the Schneerson (the founders of the “Chabad”), explains Oleshkevich. — According to Hasidic tradition, any items used by the tzaddik adopt a part of their sanctity.” This symbolic value only have real books, not their digitized copies, as valuable not the actual content of the book or its visual appearance, but rather its existence in certain conditions. Hasidic society do tend to believe that due to the sacred status of books they should touch only the Hasidim after certain “preparatory” rituals as praying, ablution in a mikveh (reservoir for washing), etc., concludes Oleshkevich.

A symmetrical response

In the “collection of Schneerson” that is stored in the RSL was missing seven books that the RSL in January 1994, gave the Library of Congress within the framework of international library lending for a period of 60 days. In March 2013, RSL filed a claim for the return of books, but they were not returned, reported “RIA Novosti”. In 2014, the RSL and the Ministry of culture filed a claim for the return of books in the Moscow Arbitration court. In 2014, the court ordered the Library of Congress to return books and was awarded the RSL and the Ministry of culture funds “in the amount of $50 thousand for each day of non-execution of an enforceable judicial act.” As of November 1, 2016, the amount of the fine up to $43,15 million

The representative of the US Department of justice Nathan Swinton told the us court in August of 2015, that the fine imposed on Moscow by the court — a response which actually copies the decision of the American court. He explained that in Russia, too, is American property, in respect of which a can be taken symmetric measures. “The Russian government can be very sensitive to treat the arrest of their assets, which obviously presents a serious foreign policy risk and may prevent the staff of our State Department to work successfully in Russia,” said Swinton.

With the participation of Natalia Galimova