'Nastya Rybka,' Detained In Thailand And Alleging Russian Threat, Seeks U.S. Asylum
RFE/RL's Russian Service February 28, 2018
The woman at the center of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's recent report about an alleged meeting between billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko has asked for political asylum from the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, where she and an associate were detained after a police raid on a "sex training" seminar.
Anastasia Vashukevich, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka, and her partner Aleksandr Kirillov -- known as Alex Lesley -- were detained by Thai police in the city of Pattaya on February 25 along with eight other Russian nationals and are expected to be deported to Russia within 48 hours, their representative, Ivan Yunko, told RFE/RL on February 28.
Yunko provided RFE/RL with photographs of the handwritten letter he said Vashukevich, Kirillov, and the others sent to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand. In the letter, scrawled in English and addressed to "USA Consul," Kirillov says that he has been "repressed by Russia" because he provided material for Navalny's report alleging a meeting on a yacht between Deripaska and Prikhodko, a longtime former senior foreign policy adviser to President Vladimr Putin.
"We ask you political asylim (sic) and help us and protect us as quickly as possible, because we have very important information for USA and we risk our lives very much," the letter says.
In it, Kirillov claims to have photographed and taped evidence of "crymes of [the] Russian government," and promises to give the evidence -- which he does not describe in any detail -- to the United States "if you help us."
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy.
Belarus-born Vashukevich, who claims to have had an affair with Deripaska, was the main source for a report published by Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation on February 8 that drew on photographs and video posted on her social-media accounts in 2016.
Navalny says the report added to evidence of corruption among allies of Putin, who is widely expected to secure a new six-year term in a March 18 presidential election. Navalny has been barred from the ballot due to a financial-crimes conviction he contends was based on fabricated charges.
The material in Navalny's report appears to include part of a conversation between Deripaska and Prikhodko about U.S.-Russian relations, which have been severely strained over issues including Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
In a video that Vashukevich posted on February 27, which appeared to have been filmed in a Thai police car, she claims that she can reveal details about Russia's alleged meddling in the election.
"I am a witness and the only missing link in the chain related to Russia and elections in the United States, in other words in that long chain [linking] Oleg Deripaska, Prikhodko, Putin, and [U.S. President Donald] Trump," she said.
In exchange for U.S. help and protection, she said, she is "ready to provide...information to the United States, Europe, or any other country that can bail me out of Thai jail," Vashukevich said.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on February 28 that there is no connection between a visit to Thailand by Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Putin's advisory Security Council, and Vashukevich's detainment there.
Patrushev, who headed Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) between 1999 and 2008, arrived in Bangkok on February 27.
Peskov said any speculation about a link between the two developments is "absurd."
With reporting by Meduza, Interfax and TASS
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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