Update: A Russian escort featured in Russian opposition Alexey Navalny’s recent expose of possible connections between former Trump aide Paul Manafort through Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to the Kremlin has been arrested in Thailand and has asked for political asylum in the US.
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State Department spokesperson Heather Nuert
At the State Department noon briefing yesterday March 6, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert answered a question about any U.S. plans regarding “Nastya Rybka” (Anastasia Vashukevich), the Belarusian escort who has gained international fame in an expose that may shed light on Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Rybka (or “Little Fish” in Russian) is the Moscow-based prostitute who provided sensational information used in an expose by Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny regarding alleged connections between oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko that may provide a plausible chain from former Trump aide Paul Manafort to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Deripaska has denied the claims and has sued Russian media that has published Navalny’s video and blog. Google issued a warning and has blocked the view of Navalny’s video in Russia, and the Russian state censor has blocked both his web site and the video.
The video, which has nearly 6.5 million views, remains viewable outside Russia on YouTube.
(Click on the “CC” on the right hand corner of the video to see the English sub-titles)
Rybka and her sex guru “Alex Lesley” (Alexandr Kirillov) were arrested in Thailand Thai resort town of Pattaya for allegedly running “sex trainings.” Thai police say they are processing paperwork to deport the pair. Currently they are in an immigration lock-up.
Rybka said she had information that could help the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller regarding Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.
“I am ready to help with an investigation if they help us get out of here,” CNN cited her as saying.
But as Rybka is not a US citizen, formally, the US has no reason to get involved:
Transcript of noon briefing at State Department, March 6, 2018:
QUESTION: And is it still true that the U.S. has no plans to meet or hear out this Russian woman that’s detained in Thailand?
MS NAUERT: So let me – I have a little bit of information on this for you but not a whole lot. She is not an American citizen. We’re certainly aware of her arrest. The Russian authorities may have more information on her case. Certainly, the Thai or Thai law enforcement may have additional information, but we’re limited in terms of what we have.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just interested to know if U.S. embassy people are – have any plans to talk to her.
MS NAUERT: Not that I am aware of. Look, we support and assist American citizens. She is not an American citizen.
QUESTION: No, but she has offered information – what she says is information about alleged Russian activity during the 2016 election as – I realize that you’re not Special Counsel Mueller, but is – but you just talked about – with the Baltics talked about combating Russian – alleged Russian interference. So I’m just wondering, I mean, is the administration interested in at least – in hearing her out, or do you give no credence to her story at all?
MS NAUERT: Look, I don’t know. This sounds like a pretty bizarre story. The woman has been detained there. I’m sure if there is anything of great interest that we need to be aware of that our Thai officials would inform us of that. Okay?
The State Department spokesperson also deflected questions about a former spy found poisoned in London and the prospects of a US-Russian meeting:
QUESTION: Speaking of Russian influence, there has been murder in Salisbury, in – an alleged murder, a mysterious poisoning of a Russian double agent who was transferred to the UK as part of a spy swap with 10 sleeper agents that was – that were caught here. He’s been poisoned similar to the Litvinenko case when the, obviously, polonium was used to murder a Russian defector on UK soil. Has the U.S. got any reaction to it yet? The Brits have said they will take strong action, whatever they can do, if it’s confirmed to Russian —
MS NAUERT: Mm-hmm, yeah. We’ve certainly seen Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s comments on this. We’re listening to that. We’re aware of the report, and I just have to refer you to the Brits on that.
QUESTION: And as part of the spy swap, three agents that had been working for the Americans allegedly were brought back here. Are you looking after them?
MS NAUERT: I’m not aware of that. I don’t have any information to provide you.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.
QUESTION: Just on this possible Lavrov thing, is it – you’re not – are you open to such a meeting if it —
MS NAUERT: Look, we have – our relationship with Russia is not at a point where it looks like it is going to be normalized anytime soon. I can tell you we have not received an invitation or a call or anything to meet with the Russians while the Secretary is on his trip in Africa, and I’ll leave it at that. Thanks.
Rybka’s last post on Instagram was March 2 advertising her sex trainings, although there have been reports that she is allowed to have a cell phone in her jail cell.
After Navalny broke the news of Rybka’s revelations, he said she had gone to Qatar where she was said to be safe. Qatar refused to extradite to Russia two suspects in the murder of Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev in 2004. It is not clear why she then traveled to Thailand, although it is a common vacation destination for Russians.
A Thai appeals court ruled in 2010 that suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout could be extradited to the US after two years of pressure from Washington. It’s not clear if Thai authorities would cooperate with any request by the US to allow Rybka and Lesley to apply for asylum in the US. Thai-Russian relations have grown closer in recent years as Bangkok signed a defense treaty with Moscow.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick