- - Wednesday, February 28, 2018

BANGKOK | A Belarusian woman jailed for alleged for sex-related activity in Thailand, asked the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday for asylum in exchange for what she says is criminal evidence on murky contacts between a Russian metals oligarch, a top Kremlin aide to President Vladimir Putin and President Trump.

Anastasia Vashukevich, the reported “mistress” of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska who is also known as Nastya Rybka, figures prominently in a sensational video expose released earlier this month by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and quickly suppressed by the Kremlin. Relying heavily on Ms. Vashukevich’s writing and Instagram account, the video charged there are close personal and financial ties between Mr. Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodkho, a close aide to Mr. Putin.

Mr. Navalny’s video said Mr. Deripaska was a key link to Mr. Trump because of his long relationship with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Mr. Prikhodko and Mr. Navalny were named in their letter which said “U.S. relations with Russia” and “very important information for USA” were involved.

“We have photo-video-audio of crymes [sic] of Russian government. And I give them USA if you help us,” the letter said, according to Khaosod English, a Thailand-based online news service which published a photograph of the letter.

Addressed “To USA Consul,” it was written by Alexander Kirillov, a Russian also known as Alex Lesley, who was one of nine Russians who were jailed along with Ms. Vashukevich. The letter did not reveal any evidence or details to support their claim.

The “political asylum” request came the same day Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha met in Bangkok with the visiting Russian security council secretary and former Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it was “ludicrous” to link the visit to the detention of Russian nationals in Thailand.

The Russian and Belarusian tourists were arrested on Sunday in Pattaya, a beach resort on the Gulf of Thailand with a reputation for sex tourism, where they allegedly participated in illegal lessons about sex taught by Mr. Kirillov.

Thai officials said they received complaints about the $700 week-long class and, after raiding the meeting, arrested the 10 for visa violations and working without a permit. Foreigners working without a permit can be jailed up to five years but are usually fined and deported.

Ms. Vashukevich calls herself Nastya Rybka on her Instagram account (@nastya_rybka.ru), where she introduces herself to more than 100,000 followers as “Deripaska’s mistress.”

In an Instagram posting Tuesday, she claimed to be the “only witness and the missing link in the connection between Russia and the U.S. elections — the long chain of Oleg Deripaska, Prikhodkho, Manafort, and Trump.”

“In exchange for help from U.S. 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.”

Mr. Manafort has been indicted on money-laundering charges related to his overseas consulting work by special counsel Robert Mueller. But the prosecutor has offered no evidence that Mr. Manafort linked his Russian contacts to Trump’s campaign or helped Russia meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

Mr. Deripaska has denied the charges and threatened to sue media outlets that report on Mr. Navalny’s allegations.

Ms. Vashukevich’s last update from jail on Wednesday said that “if we go back to Russia, we will die in Russian’s [sic] prison or they will kill us.”

One hour earlier, Ms. Vashukevich wrote: “Please USA help us not to die from Russians!”

Even Mr. Navalny told The Associated Press that he has “certain doubts” that Ms. Vashukevich has any evidence about 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.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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