Monday, December 19, 2011

In Case that Triggered Russia's Art Embargo, Chabad Tells Court It Is "In Direct Discussions" with Russia

In the closely watched case that triggered Russia's embargo on lending art to U.S. museums, Chabad v. Russian Federation, Chabad has informed the federal court in Washington, D.C. that it is "in direct discussions" with the Russian government about the archive and library of religious books and manuscripts that gave rise to their dispute. 

The disclosure was made late Friday in a request that the court temporarily stay until March 1, 2012 all proceedings and not rule on Chabad's pending motion for sanctions.  Chabad had moved for sanctions in April because Russia had not complied with the court's default judgment ordering Russia to turn over the archive and the library to Chabad.  (A discussion of the case and the embargo, which I reported and wrote and then sold to a New York publication, can be found here.)

Russia instituted its art embargo -- which has affected U.S. museums nationwide -- in August 2010, saying that it feared Chabad would seize its art to enforce the judgment.  In its Friday filing Chabad states that it "will not seek to enforce the judgment against Defendants by requesting attachment of any Russian property in the United States or otherwise on or before March 1, 2012."

Two months ago, Chabad had requested a 60-day stay from the court "to facilitate Chabad's attempts to commence negotiation with the Russian Government," so with direct talks underway there has apparently been some movement.

Chabad has aggressively litigated in the U.S. courts for seven years.  What precipitated its drastic change in strategy?  And Russia had walked away from the litigation, claiming no U.S. court has jurisdiction over it.  Why is it willing to talk with Chabad now?

Attempts to speak with Chabad's lawyers and the Russian Embassy have so far been unsuccessful.

Text Copyright 2011 Laura Gilbert