The Bell spoke with escort Nastya Rybka and her sex coach Alex Leslie after their return from Thailand and their release in Russia. Both are suspects in a criminal case and signed a non-disclosure agreement. They try not to even say the name Oleg Deripaska; because of him they found themselves at the center of one of the biggest scandals in years.
On their account:
- There was no order to go after Deripaska;
- But Leslie and his team tried to compromise the opposition leader Alexey Navalny;
- Their arrest in Thailand was arranged by the FBI, and the Russian consul helped them to return home;
- Rybka offered American journalists dirt on Trump before the scandal with Deripaska, but then no one responded;
Q: How did Rybka end up on Deripaska’s yacht?
Alex Leslie: Everyone has the false idea that I control my female students, but that’s not true. The girls use a variety of methods to meet an interested man. Business meetings, glamourous parties. I don’t keep track of that — they have their own lives, and I have mine. I don’t know who organized the “casting” for the yacht — but it’s unlikely that it was my student (this version was described in one of Rybka’s books. She herself now categorically refuses to answer questions about Deripaska. — The Bell). This, is seems, is a fictitious detail. I only learned about it when she ended up there and asked for help.
Q: Was it an order (to film and publish information about Deripaska)?
Leslie: Oligarchs live in a different category. If there is something of interest — they immediately look for an order. Their own life experiences don’t allow them to come up with any other alternative. In the reality in which Nastya and I found ourselves, nothing happens according to a plan or an order. Here two realities had a collision, ours and theirs. Yes, we don’t understand politics and we ask different people for advice — from the establishment, security people we know. For example, before Nastya’s books were published, we asked, “Could this have a negative impact on us and the people in our books? Could we offend someone?”. About the story on the yacht we were told, “It’s all ok, there is nothing criminal there, no kids, no boys. So a rich guy had fun with some young women — that’s even a good thing. Publish it.”
Q: But nevertheless. There were versions that you acted on the orders of someone, for example, Deripaska’s competitors. Deripaska’s managers suspected Vladimir Potanin, although no evidence of this ever emerged. Were you acting on someone’s order?
* Alexey Navalny’s investigation was published at the peak of the fight between Potanin and Deripaska over Norilsk Nickel.
Leslie: I don’t know anything about that. That sounds like a stupid idea. Theoretically, of course, they could blindly stir things up. But in practice, you risk your life offering such services. It is unlikely that anyone would have taken up such a crooked service. And then, if it was an order, people from the oligarch’s team would have shown proof long ago — they can probably listen in on any telephone conversation. But, I think, they didn’t find anything.
Q: How did you get involved in all of this? Sex trainings, are they your main business?
Leslie: I began to hold trainings in 2003, when I was still a university student (Kirillov is a graduate of Moscow State University’s Mechanics and Mathetmatics Faculty. — The Bell). Before then, I myself attended pick-up courses, I liked them. I decided that I’m ready to do this forever and even for free. I didn’t have any start-up money, therefore I held the first trainings on the street, right at Okhotny Ryad (a square in Moscow a short walk from Red Square — The Bell). Guys came, and I told them different tricks and they immediately went to practice: they walked up to women and learned how to seduce them.
That began to produce a profit immediately: one training lasted 10 days and cost $100 per person, and there were 30-40 people in total. So you calculate. In recent years I earned, of course, more, but I also spent more. There was about 400,000 – 800,000 roubles ($8 000 — 16 000. — The Bell) left at the end of the year, I didn’t calculate exactly. In addition to trainings, I offered private consulting sessions. I of course can’t name my clients publicly. One consultation cost $1000 and lasted two hours.
Q: How did Alexey Navalny appear in the story?
*the scandal surrounding Rybka, who was on Deripaska’s yacht in vice premier Sergei Prikhodko’s company blew up specifically because of Navalny’s publication.
Leslie: I was a speaker at the political discussion club, WTF. They debated the question “what to do with Navalny”, along the lines of he is planning a bloody massacre, and should be stopped. There was then a lot of attention on us too — the girls had just been released from prison after sex on the embankment (Rybka and another female participant of Leslie’s training spent seven days in a special holding cell in 2017 for having public sex in Moscow, the video of which they themselves published online. — The Bell). They were invited to appear on national television, and they even were on the Urgant show (a top rated late night show on Russian TV. — The Bell). And political strategists — Sergey Tolmachev, Evgeny Minchenko, who were at the club, said: since they are so popular, let them go and mess with Navalny.
Then a journalist from Life (a tabloid online publication associated with the Kremlin. — The Bell) offered us money if we could find him in France and I could seduce his wife, and Nastya, Navalny himself. But you will understand, journalists have one goal, and political strategists, others, and we have our own. For Nastya, Navalny was just another victim. She only went to the interview with him because she wanted to seduce him: she was promised that Navalny himself would personally speak with her. But Kira (Yarmish, Navalny’s press secretary, who conducted the interview. — The Bell) broke everything off— I remember how upset we were.
Rybka: Everything was not like that. At our trainings, we had an assignment — to ruin some kind of event: to show up and grab the audience’s attention. We chose Navalny’s protest — there was then a big one taking place in Moscow. We showed up with all sorts of funny posters, like, “steal and fuck”. We had a skirmish with activists. They ripped our posters, and asked where we were from. We decided to take revenge, and I led a group of girls to Navalny’s office.
Q: Do you yourself support Navalny, or Putin?
Leslie: I don’t have political views myself. I have feelings, but I don’t have clearly expressed views. That is interesting to me for exactly as long as there are beautiful women in politics. For that reason I find Ksenia Sobchak interesting, because of that I will go on her show, but she will probably want to ask me about politics.
Q: How did events unfold after Navalny published his investigation into Deripaska and Sergey Prikhodko? Did you receive threats?
Leslie: There was the feeling: crap, the whole world is against us. When we first watched the video, a friend was with Nastya and I. Two years ago he was shot in his leg. He said he wasn’t as scared when he was shot as he was at the moment sitting next to us. We had a horrible, primal fear and feeling of hopelessness: so many powerful forces against tiny little us. No one threatened us, but all the businessmen, deputies, and journalists told us: you guys are finished. I remember, NBC wrote us and the message began with “Do you fear for your safety?”. It got boring after two days. We immediately decided that it would be useless to run away. We have to make noise, to try to turn it into a joke, something absurd — which is what we did. Everyone told us about some Katya Mumu, who supposedly died (Katya Mumu was at the center of a series of sex scandals in 2010 involving opposition politicians. What is happening to her now is unknown. — The Bell). We didn’t want that it would be like that. We decided, that we should be as visible as possible, so that nothing would happen. We didn’t flee to Thailand — it was a training planned half a year in advance, and we held it for the eighth year in a row.
Q: Who organized your detention in Thailand, do you have a theory?
Leslie: I think that the Americans were behind our arrest in Thailand, and in particular, the FBI. It’s not paranoia, we tried to figure something out ourselves and hired a private detective, who confirmed our suspicions. When we were arrested there were two people present, Douglas Shoebridge and Terry Parnenon. According to our detective, they work for the DSI (Department of Special Investigations), which is referred to as “a department of the FBI in Thailand”. Young women from our trainings entertained two highly ranked Thai generals, went to the sauna with them — and they also said that the whole case was paid for by the FBI. They said that it was planned to keep us in jail “until the end of Trump’s term”. There was a moment when Rybka was banned in jail from speaking to the press — then the initiative came from the Thai embassy in Washington DC. Most of our visitors in prison, not counting family members, had U.S. passports. On the day, when, according to CNN, FBI agents were not admitted to see us, two came to see us. One introduced himself as Sandy and said that he worked for the FBI before and is now a private detective.
One of the main witnesses of the accusations, Pavel Yunko, is my former student, also a U.S. citizen. We met in the U.S., I organized a meeting with fans. I tried to organize it in Trump Tower — just for fun, because then the presidential election had just happened and it was funny. But it didn’t work out; in the end we went to a pub nearby. Then Yunko came to the training in Thailand, changed his clothes, made a statement against us in Thailand, and disappeared after the court hearing.
Q: Did you read Navalny’s recent piece which is built around recordings of people, supposedly employees of Deripaska, and they spoke about how you might be kept for as long as possible in a Thai jail…
Leslie: Yes, I listened to the recordings of the conversations which Navalny published. And I still don’t think that it was him who locked us up in Thailand. I don’t even think it was anyone from Russia. From the tapes, it is clear that the conversation took place after we had been put in jail, and it was clearly orchestrated and paid for. I think Tatiana (Monegen, in the tapes she discusses the fate of those arrested in Thailand. Navalny shared proof that she worked with Deripaska. — The Bell) was pretty angry with Nastya and wanted revenge. She is lucky that others did the dirty work for her. Tatiana might be behind the case in Russia, but not in Thailand. The Russian consul in Thailand, Vladimir Pronin, helped us every step of the way. When we were given a prison sentence and were supposed to be released, and instead they began to put a new case together, he was with us, and practically escorted us by the hand to the airplane and said “Everything will be ok”. I think that he got us out. Well yeah, then we were arrested in Russia. But right now I have come here from being questioned, and nothing scary happened there (Kirillov and his lawyer signed a non-disclosure agreement in Russia, therefore he doesn’t comment on the criminal case. – The Bell).
Q: Why didn’t you publish Nastya’s second book, in which she describes her trip to Deripaska’s dacha in Ust-Labinsk?
Leslie: The first book is entertaining, the third is cynical and written with a sense of humor. It’s not clear why the second book is needed. What Nastya wanted didn’t really turn out — the story of their relationship didn’t work out. We weren’t afraid to publish it. I don’t know if there are any recordings, related to the book, or dirt on Trump. Everyone asks, but I don’t know (The Bell wrote about the unpublished book’s contents here here).
The funniest part is that Rybka got in touch with the Americans back in 2017, well before the statements in Thailand (en route from one jail to another Rybka said that she has 16 hours of dirt on Trump. — The Bell). As a joke we sent the media a “statement” in defense of her oligarch. It said that she has information about the U.S. president’s trips to Russia; enough information for him to be impeached. I remember exactly that we wrote to The Washington Post. Of course, no one answered. We also sent it all to Brad Cates, a Republican and our friend (Cates worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Texas attorney general’s office, and in 2016 met Leslie in Minsk . — The Bell). He was horrified: “Have you guys lost your mind? Don’t joke like that, they will find you anywhere.”
Rybka: There are two books, there is no third book. Ask [my publisher] EKSMO. I never gave anyone a book about Ust-Labinsk. Nor did I write one.
Q: You don’t just offer trainings. Tell us about your company which was established in the “Skolkovo” state innovation center.
Leslie: The company (The Center or Intellectual Prognosis Systems; Alex Leslie owns the company together with his father, Sergey Kirillov. — The Bell) has been around for about 10 years. We are registered in the U.S. and in Russia. Initially we sought an U.S. jurisdiction, but now I don’t want to go there, because I think the U.S. was behind our arrest. As long as Trump is in power, I don’t plan to appear in U.S. waters.
We develop devices for cardio monitoring and detecting cardio diseases. Our production is in China. Recently we released 10 pilot devices. Our tests are in Israel, led by cardiologist, Yury Kaganovich. He is the grandson of the Kaganovich (Lazar, Stalin’s commissar. — The Bell). He even gave me his book with his autograph, which someone took during one of those never-ending searches. A shame.
At first, we focused on detecting wear of different mechanisms, such as turbines, internal combustion engines, wind generators. I went from congress to congress and made raving introductions to the aviation sector. And then five years ago, I met Michael Pecht at one conference. He is a professor of the University of Maryland, a leading expert in PHM (prognosis and health management. — The Bell). I basically glued myself to him when I realized that we needed him. Pecht said: “Why do you want to get into the aviation industry, it takes ages to break into corporations like Boeing and Airbus: they are secretive and bureaucratic. Your technology would be best applied in medicine. And my father then was diagnosed with arrhythmia. I found him that cardiologist in Israel, Kaganovich, and we went there. While he was treating my father, we got talking, and he was interested in our inventions, and we launched a cardio project.
Q: Are you making any money with it?
Leslie: For now we aren’t making anything. Over ten years I have put in around half a million dollars of my own money, and we didn’t attract investment. Although one time I tried, in 2014. My partner, Sasha (Aleksandr Khodos. — The Bell) had access to Vladimir Yevtushenkov (the billionaire owner of AFK Sistema business conglomerate. — The Bell). In fact, when this whole thing with Rybka blew up, Sistema, as far as I know, was really unhappy. Anyway, we were interested in Yevtushenkov as he owns MEDSI (a chain of clinics in Moscow. — The Bell). They then were developing telemedicine, and they had a pool of projects in this area, and our device would have been a great fit.
We met, Yevtushenkov was really interested and was ready to invest. If I remember correctly, he offered $20 million for 25% of the company. In other words, he valued the whole company at $80 million. But exactly one week later, he was placed under house arrest, and his son took over as the head of Sistema. He wasn’t prepared to give money just like that, “from this pocket”. They sent us to never-ending committees, tenders. There was so much bureaucracy that I understood: the team is small, 10 people, they need to focus on the science, and not write stupid business plans. It was easier for me to make money from my trainings and invest (the press service of AFK Sistema declined to comment. — The Bell).
Now I’m not interested in managing that business. I want to make a product, package it, and sell it, and then do something new. And in general: I said in jail, and some kind of people constantly came to me, “So and so ordered you, that ordered”. And I thought, geez, what are they all doing? Why are they suffering from this crap? Because of some chick they caused God knows what across the whole planet. They would have better invested the money which they spent on our arrest in the cardio project. There, at least $20 million. And everyone would have been better off.
* Rybka’s lawyer told most journalists with multiple requests for interviews that they are only prepared to talk “on a paid basis”. The Bell did not pay for this interview.
Anastasia Stognei, translation by Tanja Maier.
An insider view, in 5 minutes