Three encounters with billionaire Oleg Deripaska have cost Belarusian escort Nastya Rybka (Anastasia Vashukevich), her sex coach Alex Leslie (Alexander Kirillov) and some of their friends 9 months in a Thai jail, deportation and criminal charges in Russia. Even though the suspects were freed this week, there is much that is still unclear. The Bell has read all of Rybka’s three books and spoken to many of her friends and relatives to try and answer two of the most important questions: What does Rybka know about Russia’s meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential elections? And who has tried to access this information?
An unpublished book
Rybka described her interactions with Deripaska in three kiss-and-tell books and through many photos and videos on Instagram — so working out a timeline of their history together is like solving a puzzle. Two books have been published, and The Bell has seen a copy of the third, unpublished book. From this, we can figure out that Rybka met Deripaska three times: in August 2016 on a yacht with Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko off the coast of Norway; in September-October of the same year at the billionaire’s country house in southern Russia; and in January 2017 in a skiing resort in Austria.
According to the unpublished book, Rybka was invited to Deripaska’s country house by the billionaire’s assistant. She was flown on a direct flight from Moscow to Krasnodar, after which one of Deripaska’s drivers took the young woman to the villa where she supposedly spent three days with the billionaire, his guests and several other escort girls.
One day, she says Deripaska met with an important-looking man who arrived in an all-terrain vehicle with tinted windows. Their conversation was held in private but, in the book, Rybka says she hid her phone behind books in the library and managed to record the conversation. If this recording exists it has never been released and could still be in Rybka’s possession. There is no reason, after all, to suppose she is lying: all the other descriptions in her books are corroborated by videos and photos on Instagram.
A queue of visitors
Rybka, Leslie and their friends spent 18 months after the yacht trip with Deripaska seeking media attention. They even demonstrated at Lenin’s tomb with placards advertising Rybka’s books — but they only managed to generate articles in the gutter press. However, this all changed when opposition leader Alexei Navalny published his February 2018 investigation into Deripaska, Prikhodko and Rybka.
Two weeks later, on 25 February, Rybka, Leslie and eight others were arrested during a sex training session in the Ibis Hotel on Pattaya, a city in east Thailand. “Close to the end of our session, where there were 30 to 40 people, a group of policemen burst in…. They didn’t explain anything and shouted in Thai and English. They grabbed 10 people, shoved them into the car and drove them away,” recalled one of those arrested, Diana Simuk. At the police station, they were told they had been working illegally. The court hearing a few days later found them innocent, but, as they were leaving, they were again arrested.
On 27 February, the entire group was transferred to Nong Pla Lai Prison and accused of collusion and providing sexual services. It was at this point that Rybka claimed she had 16 hours of “audio and video materials” on the connections between Russian “deputies” and “Manafort, Trump and the drama around the U.S. elections”. The conditions in Nong Pla Lai were grim. There are 20-100 people in each cell, according to Simuk, and new arrivals sleep “like cattle”: on their sides, lined up on the floor. Inmates were given three small blankets; one to sleep on, the other for a pillow, and the third as a cover. Nothing was allowed in from the outside, not even medicine or food.
According to multiple friends and relatives, Rybka and Leslie had a string of visitors claiming to represent every major secret service in the world: the FSB, CIA and FSB. None of the visitors officially identified themselves, but everyone was interested in Rybka’s information. CNN reported the FBI attempted to visit the detainees, but were not allowed in. Russian consul Vladimir Pronin was a frequent guest in Nong Pla Lai. Later, after they were released on time served, Pronin told Rybka and Leslie that everything would be OK if they were deported to Russia. “Pronin practically led us by the hand to the airplane,” the wife of one of those held in the prison told The Bell. On arrival in Moscow, one of the group publicly thanked Pronin.
Back in Moscow last week, Rybka and Leslie were arrested in the airport on prostitution charges. They were released a couple of days later, though the case is still being investigated.
Context: What links Rybka to meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections?
In August 2016, Rybka was present when Deripaska spent time on his yacht with Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko who is involved in determining Russian foreign policy.
Election link? Two days before his yachting trip, Deripaska was in New York. Just a few hours before Deripaska landed in the city, the head of Trump’s election campaign, Paul Manafort, met with his Ukrainian partner, Konstantin Kilimnik, apparently to discuss the possibility of private briefings for Deripaska. It is unclear whether or not Deripaska met with Manafort or Kilimnik on that trip.
In January 2017, Rybka and Deripaska agreed to meet after a phone call (at this stage Rybka has Deripaska’s number). She arrives in the Austrian ski resort of Lech together with Leslie and another sex coach, Andrei Zheshko, who also ended up in jail in Thailand. The meeting takes place in a bar and Deripaska was accompanied by Adam Waldman, a lobbyist for Deripaska and Julian Assange. Waldman appears in one of Rybka’s Instagram videos (the news outlet Proekt first drew attention to this).
Election link? This encounter took place just a few days before one of Waldman’s visits to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. It was Wikileaks that published hacked information from the servers of the DNC. Waldman has worked for Deripaska since 2009 through his company, Endeavor Group, where he is a managing partner.
An insider view, in 5 minutes