Hooker, jailed in Thailand, wants to talk about Russian collusion

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jserraglio
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Hooker, jailed in Thailand, wants to talk about Russian collusion

Post by jserraglio » Fri Mar 02, 2018 8:19 am

The New York Times
By Richard C. Paddock
March 2, 2018


PATTAYA, Thailand — It has all the makings of a pulp novel, though the ending is still a mystery.

A high-end escort from Belarus, who says she was the mistress of a powerful Russian oligarch, flees to Thailand. But at a seaside resort known for its raunchy entertainment scene, she gets arrested for helping to conduct a sex workshop.

Hoping to avoid deportation, she offers information about President Trump and Russia. But her appeal is for naught. No one has stepped forward to grant her asylum.

Such has been the saga this week of Anastasia Vashukevich, who also goes by the name Nastya Rybka.

The 21-year-old model and blogger was arrested Sunday in the Thai holiday town of Pattaya along with nine others involved in the sex training course, which was aimed at male Russian tourists.

“She will be deported,” said the chief of Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, Suttipong Wongpin, in an interview Thursday. “Her immigration offense is working without a work permit.”

In events that have played out publicly on Instagram and YouTube for months, Ms. Vashukevich has revealed what she says was her close association with the aluminum tycoon Oleg V. Deripaska and his friendship with Russia’s powerful deputy prime minister, Sergei E. Prikhodko.

Mr. Deripaska has business ties to Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, who is under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel looking into the campaign’s connections to Russia.

Financial records show that companies controlled by Mr. Manafort owed millions of dollars to Mr. Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Manafort offered to give Mr. Deripaska private briefings.

Ms. Vashukevich, in a video that she apparently recorded in the back of a Thai police truck after her arrest, said she could provide evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.

She claims to have detailed information about connections between Russian officials, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Trump — if only someone could get her out of Thai detention.

Her assertion of inside knowledge might be easily dismissed but for a 25-minute video investigation posted last month on YouTube by the Russian opposition figure Aleksei A. Navalny, which relies heavily on videos and photos from Ms. Vashukevich.

In particular, it includes video footage from 2016 of Mr. Deripaska sailing on his yacht with Mr. Prikhodko and a description of their meeting in a book by Ms. Vashukevich.

Mr. Navalny asserted that the yacht trip was a bribe from Mr. Deripaska to Mr. Prikhodko and said that Ms. Vashukevich was one of “several” prostitutes aboard the vessel. In one part of the video, the two men can be heard discussing Russian-American relations.

The video has had more than 6.2 million views despite efforts in Russia to block it.



Mr. Deripaska said through a spokesman that Mr. Navalny’s allegations of bribery and prostitutes were a “hot story that appears far from being the truth.”

In a last-ditch effort to prevent Ms. Vashukevich’s deportation from Thailand, her associate Alexander Kirillov, also known as Alex Lesley, distributed a letter addressed to “USA Consul” seeking political asylum for all 10 of the arrested sex workshop trainers.

Mr. Kirillov, who was alleged to be running the sex seminar, was in immigration detention after being arrested.

The letter claims that their lives are at risk and reiterates the offer of inside information about communications between the oligarch, the deputy prime minister and people in the United States.

“Help us and protect us as quickly as possible because we have very important information for USA,” the letter says.

A spokeswoman for the American Embassy in Bangkok declined to comment.

Mr. Suttipong, a police lieutenant general, said that Ms. Vashukevich remained in detention. He said that her visa was revoked after she was found to be working in Pattaya, about 80 miles south of Bangkok.

Five others arrested in connection with their roles in the sex training will also be deported, he said, and the other four will remain in Thailand, where they may face criminal charges.

Videos of the workshop posted by the organizers showed dozens of men, and a few women, sitting in rows of chairs in a hotel meeting room while listening to lectures in Russian.

Hotel staff called the police when they heard suspicious noises coming from the room, according to local media reports.

At one point, Ms. Vashukevich posted a photo of herself in what appears to be a jail cell.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday afternoon, she said she was being taken to the main immigration detention center in Bangkok.

“We’re being transported to another prison again,” she wrote. “To Bangkok. They don’t explained WHY.”

Ryn Jirenuwat contributed reporting from Bangkok and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow.
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