Russia’s Defense Team in Seforim Case Quits Over Ukraine War

A top international law firm representing the Russian state firms at the center of the Chabad seforim case has announced it was ending its legal work for the Russians after getting hit with US sanctions.

By Anash.org reporter

A top international law firm representing the Russian state firms at the center of the Chabad seforim case has announced it was ending its legal work for the Russians in protest of its war in Ukraine.

One of London’s oldest law firms, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, has pulled out of representing Russia’s state-backed development bank, VEB.RF, in a legal battle between the Russian bank and Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States.

The move to disengage from VEB.RF comes about two weeks after the bank was hit with U.S. sanctions for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and just as the lawsuit over the library was set to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Freshfields on behalf of VEB had planned to ask the Supreme Court to block a subpoena from Agudas Chasidei Chabad that is hunting for assets that might be seized to satisfy a $150 million judgment against Russia. The country has defied a 2010 U.S. federal court order to return thousands of sacred books and manuscripts that make up the Schneerson Collection. 

Freshfields said in court papers filed last week in Washington, D.C., that VEB was looking to find a new lawyer to represent it in the subpoena fight involving Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States, the umbrella organization of the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch group.

Freshfields asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to pause the proceedings until the bank hires new counsel. The law firm in its public statement said “our professional obligations – including duties to the court” required it to make such a court filing.

The Schneerson Collection, which includes thousands of sacred books, letters, and manuscripts from the founders of the Chabad movement, has been in the hands of the Russian government since the start of the First World War, when the Rebbe Rashab put the books in storage in Moscow for safekeeping, with the intention to retrieve them after the war was over.

After the Bolsheviks took control of Russia in 1917, the holy seforim were handed over to Russia’s State Library, which later refused to hand the collection back to the Chabad Lubavitch.

The Russian government also took possession of some of the texts after Soviet troops seized them from Nazi researchers in the Second World War.

In 2010, a US court ruled in favor of Agudas Chasidei Chabad and ordered Russia to hand over the treasured books. Russia has however refused to hand them over, falsely claiming that they are a national treasure.  

Discussion
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  1. BH – I believe that in 5747 the Rebbe said that anyone who is in possession of articles (books, manuscripts etc) from the Previous Rebbe’s library is holding onto a time bomb – he used the expression a ‘zeeseh apfel’ (military jargon for a grenade), adding that he cannot be responsible for when it goes off.
    If Putin wants to get out of this mess he is in, he should return the books asap.

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