|Anastasia Vashukevich From Russia With Love |
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Anastasia Vashukevich arrest in Thailand and subsequent arrest in Russia on prostitution charges may be an elaborate set up by powerful forces in Moscow to keep her from revealing possible details about Russian collusion with the 2016 Donald Trump campaign, a Russian anti-corruption activist asserts.
Vashukevich, 28, who is also known by the Russian nickname, “Nastya Rybka (translation Little Fish),” was arrested in February a year ago with nine co-workers in Thailand. They were initially charged with “illegal business activity,” acquitted in April and re-charged with doing “illegal sex work.”
Now, Russian anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny says he’s received new audio tapes from an anonymous source suggesting Vashukevich’s arrested was possibly engineered by Putin ally Oleg Deripaska and Moscow.
Navalny was instrumental in identifying Vashukevich as Deripaska’s mistress. He posted videos on YouTube, showing her lounging at Deripaska’s side on his luxury yacht in Aug. 2016 during the height of the U.S. presidential election.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko was also on Deripaska’s multi-million dollar yacht at the time.
Navalny said video and photos posted on Instagram by Vashukevich showed the men discussing Russia’s poor relationship with the United States.
Shortly after Navalny says he posted the media on his anti-corruption Web site, Thai police arrested Vashukevich and her associates.
Anastasia claimed at the time she was arrested on the orders of the Russian government because of the video.
“Thai immigration is dancing to the tune of Russia and in fact will simply kill us, if Thailand gives us to Russia,” Vashukevich said in a social media post.
Now, Navalny says he has evidence the appears to prove her claim, according to his Web site, the Medusa Project.
Two audio recordings are about Vashukevich. One call is between people named “Tatiana,” “Georgy,” and “William.” They are talking about Vashukevich’s arrest in Thailand, Navalny says.
In the recording, Georgy insists that everyone in Vashukevich’s group needs to be “locked up,” while William points out that Thai law doesn’t imprison “sex trainers.” Georgy then says Vashukevich’s group could be charged with illegal business activities, instead.
Navalny believes “Tatiana” is Tatiana Monegen, the secretary general of the Russian branch of International Chamber of Commerce, which is closely tied to Deripaska.
“Georgy” is likely Georgy Oganov, the former spokesman for Russia’s U.S. embassy, a board member at Deripaska’s “Basic Element” industrial group, and one of Deripaska’s advisers, according to the anti-corruption crusader. He does not identify “William.”
The self-described sex-worker appealed to U.S. officials and the American media. She’s agreed to tell all, if someone helped her get out of the country without being deported to Russia.
Her story was potentially significant because Deripaska employed Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who ultimately fell $19 million in debt to the billionaire oligarch.
Two weeks ago, reports surfaced that Manafort shared 2016 presidential campaign polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik who has ties to Russian intelligence, according to a court filing.
The data would have been immeasurable to Russian operatives to help target their cyber campaign on Trump’s behalf.
“I am the only witness and the missing link in the connection between Russia and the US elections — the long chain of Oleg Deripaska, Prikhodko, Manafort and Trump,” Vashukevich said in a video posted online.
“In exchange for help from US intelligence services and a guarantee of my safety, I am prepared to provide the necessary information to America, or to Europe, or to the country which can buy me out of Thai prison,” she added.
“Please USA save us from Russia!” she wrote on a different post. “All this cases are political repressions!”
For his part, Navalny also believes Deripaska and Prikhodko could be the link between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, according to CNN.
Apparently a deal was ultimately worked out. A lawyer representing Vashukevich said she and seven co-defendants were given suspended, 18-month prison terms and fined 100,000 Thai baht ($3,135). They were released from prison for time served.
Vashukevich was supposed to be deported home to Belarus, but she and three others were arrested during their layover at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport in connection with an alleged prostitution investigation, cccording to the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.
According to the Kremlin version of events, Alexandra Davydova and her roommate called the police, claiming that Vashukevich and her sex-worker partner Alex Kirillov had blackmailed her into prostitution and seized her Kazakh passport.
Davydova, also known as Sasha Travka, had helped Vashukevich and Kirillov organize the sex-training program.
In a startling scene, police at the airport were videoed manhandling Vashukevich, trying to force her into a wheel chair and ultimately dragging her away.
On January 19, Vashukevich was arraigned at Moscow’s Nagatinsky District Court. She also apologized to Deripaska, claiming she was “just a tool and people used me.”
Vashukevich and Kirillov returned to court on Tuesday, (Jany 22). Kirillov told reporters outside the court he believes “somebody ordered (our arrest)… for money.”
She and her Russian associate were charged in Russia with inducement to prostitution, a crime that carries up to six years in prison. She is currently free on bond, but still faces further court hearings.
Navalny’s team said they have filed a police report asking for an investigation in Deripaska and his possible role in organizing prostitution, taking bribes and other offences related to Vashukevich.
As for the model/sex worker, she swore off all further interviews and praised Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who apparently has used his influence to secure her release from custody in Moscow, according to Radio Free Europe.
“I will definitely tell everything: What it was like for us in jail, what happened, whom I suspect,” she said, without elaborating. “Just give me at least a couple of days to recover,” she said on Twitter.
But whether that includes her claims about Russian collusion with Trump and Manafort is still an unanswered question. And, she remains a Little Fish on a big hook.
Check out the videos below and her photos.