PATTAYA – 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 Donald Trump and Russia. But her appeal is for naught. No one has come forward to grant 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 offence is working without a work permit.”
In events that have played out publicly on Instagram and YouTube for months, Vashukevich has revealed what she says was her close association with aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska and his friendship with Russia’s powerful deputy prime minister, Sergei Prikhodko.
Deripaska has business ties to Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairperson, who is under investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into the campaign’s connections to Russia.
Financial records show that companies controlled by Manafort owed millions of dollars to Deripaska, a billionaire with close ties to Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Manafort offered to give Deripaska private briefings.
Vashukevich, in a video 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 U.S. presidential election.
She claims to have detailed information about connections between Russian officials, Manafort and 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 Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, which relies heavily on videos and photos from Vashukevich.
In particular, it includes video footage from 2016 of Deripaska sailing on his yacht with Prikhodko and a description of their meeting in a book by Vashukevich.
Navalny asserted that the yacht trip was a bribe from Deripaska to Prikhodko and said Vashukevich was one of “several” prostitutes aboard the vessel. In one part of the video, the two men can be heard discussing Russian-U.S. relations.
The video has had more than 6.2 million views despite efforts in Russia to block it.
Deripaska said through a spokesperson that 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 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.
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 spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok declined to comment.
Suttipong, a police lieutenant-general, said Vashukevich remained in detention. He said her visa was revoked after she was found to be working in Pattaya, about 125 kilometres 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, in rows of chairs in a hotel meeting room listening to lectures in Russian.
Hotel staff called police when they heard suspicious noises coming from the room, according to local media reports.
At one point, Vashukevich posted a photo of herself in what appears to be a jail cell.
In an Instagram post Wednesday, she said she was being taken to the main immigration detention centre in Bangkok.
“We’re being transported to another prison again,” she wrote. “To Bangkok. They don’t explained WHY.”
By Richard C Paddock
The Associated Press