A Belarusian escort who claims to have secret information about Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 election could spend years in Thai prison.
And she’s accusing the U.S. of a conspiracy to keep her behind bars.
Anastasia Vashukevich, 27, who goes by the name “Nastya Rybka,” was acquitted Tuesday of breaking labor laws in Thailand while teaching a class on the art of seduction in February with self-proclaimed “sex guru,” Alex Kirillov, 38, news agencies reported.
But Vashukevich and Kirillov have been hit with other charges of soliciting to provide sexual services, and conspiracy to solicit, by authorities in the beachside city of Pattaya. The solicitation charge alone carries up to 10 years in prison.
Vashukevich first made international headlines in February, when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny used her NSFW Instagram posts as raw material for a documentary about an alleged secret meeting between Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and a senior Russian government official. Vashukevich has described herself as Deripaska’s “mistress,” and the documentary depicts her joining Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko on a pleasure cruise off the coast of Norway in August 2016.
Vashukevich has told reporters she was a key eyewitness at high-level meetings about Russia’s involvement in the U.S. 2016 elections, and has pointed to her alleged relationship with Deripaska as proof to back it up.
Deripaska has repeatedly called Navalny’s accusations false, and denied any wrongdoing.
But he was singled out for U.S. sanctions earlier this month by the U.S. Treasury department, and Congressional investigators looking at Russia’s role in the 2016 election are probing his relationship with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, two people familiar with the investigation told VICE News in late March.
From behind bars in Thailand, Vashukevich, a self-described “sex huntress” of rich and powerful men, has said she has over 16 hours of relevant audio recordings stashed away. And she’s offered to trade those tapes for political asylum in the U.S.
Since then, the FBI has tried to contact Vashukevich and Kirillov in jail, according to CNN, but the attempt was rebuffed by Thai officials on the grounds that only family and her lawyers would be allowed in. The FBI didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News.
Thai officials have largely cut off access to Vashukevich and Kirillov since the initial media blitz. But on Tuesday, journalists caught up with the pair, along with a half-dozen of their associates from the sex training seminar who were also arrested in February, outside the courthouse in Pattaya.
In a surprise reversal, the pair are now putting blame on the U.S., including the FBI, for their incarceration in Thailand — instead of Russia, as they had before.
Looking tanned and worse for wear, they spoke to reporters through the wire mesh of police wagon windows, and as they entered and exited the courthouse.
Kirillov said he thought the FBI may be manipulating the court proceedings to keep them detained in Thailand for three or four months, according to the Associated Press. He suggested the Americans were trying to fish out the evidence that they had stashed away about Russian meddling without offering them asylum in exchange.
In shaky English, he was quoted saying: “This information is much more interesting for the American side. I think Russia is not involved so much as we thought about this.”
He told the AP that Vashukevich had even sent a message to Deripaska. Kirillov said that she told the billionaire that she’s waiting for him to “‘come and do something’ because this is everything about his case and she don't want to participate in some political situation. This is love story.”
Vashukevich, speaking Russian, said: “I want to say this to Oleg Deripaska, and say that we were wrong, it’s not the Russian government who are trying to put us in jail, it’s the Americans.”
Kirillov and Vashukevich were arrested after midnight in the middle of teaching a class on sex and seduction to about 40 people in a hotel in Pattaya. Attendees were wearing shirts that read “sex animator,” with a massive red arrow pointing downward.
In the days after their arrest, Kirillov and Vashukevich blamed Russia, and smuggled a handwritten letter to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok asking American officials to intervene on their behalf.
“We ask you [for] political asylum, and [to] help us and protect us as quickly as possible, because we have very important information for USA and we risk our lives very much,” Kirillov wrote, according to a copy given to VICE News by their associate who delivered it to the U.S. Consulate.
Cover image: Anastasia Vashukevich sits inside a prison transport vehicle outside a courthouse in Pattaya, south of Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 17, 2018.