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Escort Offering Info on Russian Meddling in US Election Will Stay in Thai Jail: Officials

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2018-03-07
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A Thai police officer escorts Anastasia Vashukevich from a detention center in Pattaya, south of Bangkok, Feb. 28, 2018.
AP

A self-styled Belarusian sex coach who alleged she could provide damning evidence to support claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in exchange for political asylum will remain under detention in Thailand as authorities compile evidence against her, immigration officials said Wednesday.

Anastasia Vashukevich, 21, was arrested with nine others last month on charges of offering sex lessons without a work permit in the city of Pattaya, about 100 km (62 miles) southeast of the capital Bangkok. Previously, officials said she could face criminal charges and deportation to Belarus.

“At present, police are gathering evidence to determine if they are to be prosecuted,” Lt. Gen. Suthipong Wongpin, chief of Thailand’s Immigration Bureau, told BenarNews. He did not elaborate.

Vashukevich, who uses the name Nastya Rybka on social media, claims to have had an affair with Oleg Deripaska, a 50-year-old Russian billionaire who has done business with Paul Manafort, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

Behind bars at the Suan Plu detention center in Bangkok, Vashukevich told the New York Times on Monday that she would be willing to provide a detailed insider knowledge of Russian meddling in the U.S. election if Washington would grant her political asylum.

“If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know,” Vashukevich said. “I am afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.”

Thai officials on Monday said they were trying to determine their next step against Vashukevich and the other suspects from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

“Six of them, including Vashukevich, are detained at the Suan Plu detention center and four others are in the custody of Pattaya police,” Suthipong said in a phone interview.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok responded to Vashukevich’s statements that she would seek political asylum.

“We are aware of media reports of this individual’s arrest. She is not a U.S. citizen, and we would refer you to Thai law enforcement for further questions,” Jillian Bonnardeaux, the embassy’s spokeswoman told BenarNews. “We refer all inquiries about asylum and asylum procedures to the Department of Homeland Security.”

Vashukevich catapulted to fame in early February after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny posted a 25-minute investigative report on YouTube. It had almost 6.5 million views as of Tuesday.

The report, which relies heavily on photos and videos from Vashukevich’s Instagram account, appears to include part of an audio recording of a conversation between Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, a longtime former senior adviser to President Vladimir Putin.

That conversation apparently took place on the business tycoon’s yacht off the coast of Norway in 2016, according to Navalny.

The two men talked about U.S.-Russia relations, Navalny said, as he insisted that his investigative report implied Kremlin’s link to Trump and Manafort.

But Navalny did not provide other evidence and, in that report, did not say whether Vashukevich had any information about the alleged Russian campaign to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Russia has denied the allegations and Trump has said his campaign had no collusion with Moscow.

Pleaded not guilty

Manafort, a longtime Washington lobbyist, established a joint telecommunications venture with Deripaska a decade before he joined the Trump campaign. That venture eventually collapsed and the Russian tycoon sued Manafort in a U.S. court.

Manafort served as Trump's campaign manager in 2016 until news about his lobbying work for the Russia-friendly Ukrainian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych emerged. He was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in October 2017 on money-laundering charges related to that overseas consulting work. He has pleaded not guilty.

Vashukevich, who has more than 60,000 followers on Instagram, describes herself as a model. She also wrote a book on how to seduce billionaires. She has posted racy photos of herself, including a few showing her cuddling with the Russian tycoon.

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