PATTAYA, Thailand – A Belarusian woman jailed in Thailand for offering sex lessons without a work permit says she has a story to tell involving the Kremlin, Russian billionaires and even the president of the United States.
Anastasia Vashukevich, whose extraordinary claims and racy selfies have propelled her to internet fame in recent weeks, told The Associated Press from a police van Wednesday that she fears for her life, and wants to exchange information on alleged Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign for her own personal safety. But she refused for now to offer any such evidence, and it’s not clear if she has any.
Vashukevich’s story offers a glimpse into the shady world of Russian oligarchs. Trump’s one-time campaign manager, Paul Manafort, also had ties to that world through his consulting work for one of those oligarchs. Manafort has been indicted on money-laundering charges related to his overseas consulting work by special counsel Robert Mueller. But Mueller has offered no evidence that Manafort linked his Russian contacts to Trump’s campaign or helped Russia meddle in the U.S. election.
That has not stopped Vashukevich from claiming that she has such evidence as she faces possible deportation back to Russia.
Vashukevich shot to fame in early February when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s top foes, published an investigation drawing on Vashukevich’s social media posts suggesting corrupt links between billionaire Oleg Deripaska and a top Kremlin official, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. The report featured video from Deripaska’s yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich claims she was having an affair with him.
Russians have focused on the ties between Deripaska and Prikhodko. But now Vashukevich says — so far without proof — that she can link the Kremlin to Trump and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who worked for Deripaska a decade before Trump hired him. Manafort has been indicted on money-laundering charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election but Mueller has offered no evidence so far in his investigation that Manafort helped Russia in the U.S. election.
Vashukevich’s links to Deripaska do offer a glimpse into some of the shady associations that surround many Russian oligarchs.
Even Navalny told the AP on Wednesday that he has “certain doubts” that Vashukevich has any evidence about alleged direct ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“I think such statements are made because of fears for her own life because they have been detained in Thailand,” he said, adding he believes her fears are well-founded.
Navalny’s report made no claim that Vashukevich knew anything about a Russian campaign to influence the U.S. election, and she has produced no evidence that she does.
As for her claims of Deripaska’s ties to the Kremlin official, Deripaska has called them nonsense when Navalny alleged them.
In an emailed response Feb. 8, Deripaska’s spokesman said: “These scandalous and mendacious assumptions are driven by sensationalism and we totally refute these outrageous false allegations in the strongest possible way.”