Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he refused to return a historic but disputed Jewish archive to the United States because doing so would "open a Pandora's box".
Putin's statement came after a US judge slapped a daily fine of $50,000 (37,500 euros) on Moscow last month for its failure to comply with a 2010 order to return the sacred texts, part of the Schneersohn Library in honor of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, which was split up and partially nationalized by the Soviet Union in 1918.
Speaking at a Moscow meeting on inter-ethnic issues, Putin called the ruling "unjust" and proposed instead to display the collection in Moscow, AFP reported.
"If we open a Pandora's box today and begin to grant such claims, then there won't be an end to such requests and it is unclear what they will lead to," he said in televised remarks.
"Maybe one day we will be able to do so but in my opinion, right now we are simply absolutely not ready for it. It is not possible."
He suggested the texts be displayed at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre, which opened in November and is one of the world's largest Jewish museums.