Russian ship to avoid U.S. ports over book collection dispute

A Russian sailing ship, the Nadezhda, is heading towards the Hawaiian Islands but will stay away from U.S. territorial waters until the Russian Foreign Ministry says it is safe to enter.

The ship, performing a tour devoted to the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostok, is to make its main stop in Honolulu, which is to host this year’s APEC summit.

The ship was advised not to visit U.S. ports in October for fears that the ship may be confiscated in a dispute over the Schneerson Collection, a collection of books and manuscripts gathered by the dynasty of the Schneerson rabbis. A new recommendation from the Russian Foreign Ministry is expected within two weeks.

“As it is unclear whether it would be safe for the ship to visit the U.S. port because of the dispute, the frigate will avoid U.S. territorial waters for now and wait for a recommendation from the Russian Foreign Ministry,” a spokesman for the Nevelsky Marine State University, which owns the ship, said.

During their visit to Honolulu, the crew was to take up a symbolic summit relay. However, if the ship’s captain is recommended to abstain from the visit, a delegation from the Nadezhda will arrive to the ceremony by plane.

In late October, the ship had to cancel its goodwill visit to San Francisco after it was advised by the Russian Foreign Ministry to steer clear of California due to the “threat of the ship’s confiscation” in an attempt to make Russia hand over the collection.

The Schneerson Collection, comprising thousands of books and manuscripts related to the Hasidic movement, was collected by the Schneerson dynasty over a 200-year period and confiscated by Soviet authorities. Most of the items from the collection have since been kept in the Lenin Library.

In 2010, the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled that Russia must return the collection to the Judaic Chabad Lubavitch movement. The movement’s activists have already warned Russia that they would resort to all possible ways to enforce the ruling.

In the early 1990s, Jewish activists held regular pickets near the library in an attempt to get the manuscripts back. They are reported to believe that the manuscripts would give them new mystic evidence, as well as prophesies about the future, and would help them spread the influence of the movement worldwide.

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