Two Sex Coaches Claim to have Information About Russian Meddling in the 2016 US Presidential Elections
Last February, two Belarus nationals, Anastasia Vashukevich and Alexander Kirillov, were arrested in Pattaya, Thailand. The self-described “sex coaches” were conducting a course at a hotel in Pattaya, a city known for its vibrant nightlife, when arrested by the police. Now, the two offer what they describe as evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, in exchange for asylum in the US. Despite the offer, after weeks of detention, they may soon face deportation to either Russia or Belarus.
Ms. Vashukevich and Mr. Kirillov were two of the ten instructors involved in the “sex training” course. Thirty-three Russian tourists who attended the event were also arrested during the raid but were released without any charges. The ten instructors, on the other hand, were all charged for immigration offenses, including not having valid work permits.
In the aftermath of the raid, multiple news outlets raised doubts about whether the Thai police force was acting independently. In a news conference, the Pattaya police chief Apichai Krobpet was quoted saying that “the course itself is not illegal”. In addition, a report issued by the Pattaya police force noted a “foreign spy” cooperating with their team during the low-level raid with high ranking personnel present, including six police generals and two colonels. The New York Times reported that the “spy” played a critical role in the operation by signaling the team to commence the raid. These “unusual circumstances” precipitated into a rumor of a “covert Russian operation to silence them [Ms. Vashukevich and Mr. Kirillov]” for knowing too much information, disguised as a legitimate police operation.
Ms. Vashukevich, also known in social media as Nastya Rybka, previously worked as an escort in a private yacht owned by a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska. Mr. Deripaska is a former business associate of Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. The ties between Mr. Manafort and Mr. Deripaska stretched back to a decade ago when Mr. Manafort provided consultation and investment advice to Mr. Deripaska. The aluminum magnate, who is a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also loaned Mr. Manafort millions of dollars which have not been repaid. It is also reported that Mr. Manafort offered Mr. Deripaska “private briefings” about the Trump campaign, but it is unproven as to whether Mr. Deripaska accepted his offer.
Ms. Vashukevich claimed that she had an affair with Mr. Deripaska and captured video recordings of him talking with Sergei Prikhodko, the deputy prime minister of Russia, about US-Russia relations. She also alleged that the 16-hour video included conversations between Mr. Deripaska and three supposedly American visitors.
Mr. Killirov wrote a letter to the American Embassy in Bangkok requesting asylum in the USA on behalf of nine other instructors and himself. In late February, Ms. Vashukevich posted a video on her Instagram account, apparently recorded at the back of a police vehicle. She said in her post that “If we go back to Russia we will die in Russian’s [sic] prison or they will kill us… This is very serious… Please USA help us [to] not to die from Russians!”
Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman at that time, referred to the situation as “a bizarre story”. Despite the apparent disinterest expressed by State Department officials, CNN reported that a confidential source inside the FBI revealed that the organization attempted to talk to Ms. Vashukevich and Mr. Killirov but were rebuffed by the Thai authorities as well as the US Embassy in Thailand. A spokesperson from the Embassy commented that “she is not a US citizen, and we would refer you to Thai law enforcement for further questions.”
Ms. Vashukevich and Mr. Killirov are currently awaiting trial. If convicted, they may be slapped with a fine up to $3,000, deportation and permanent expulsion from Thailand. The Thai Immigration Bureau stated that if deported, they will be sent back to either Russia or Belarus or “a country they want to go to with conditions.”
Ms. Vashukevich and Mr. Killirov received international attention when high-profile Russian dissident and opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, “included them in a video” when making accusations about corruption in the highest levels of the Russian government.
Prior to the Russian Presidential election on March 18, 2018, Mr. Navalny was arrested for organizing an illegal protest. He was released with no charges but was barred from running in the election.