From behind bars in a sweltering immigration detention center in Bangkok, a self-styled “sex coach” who claims to have detailed insider knowledge of Russian meddling in the US election says she wants to cooperate with US investigators.
The catch? She says the US government needs to grant her political asylum.
Belarus-born Anastasia Vashukevich claims she has proof of Russian interference in the 2016 US election in the form of more than an hour of audio recordings and photos of meetings.
“I am ready to help with an investigation if they help us get out of here,” says the 21-year old.
None of the alleged recordings or photos of those meetings have been made public.
‘A plan for the election’
Vashukevich’s arrival in this Thai detention center is a bizarre and tangled saga.
Vashukevich, who also goes by the pseudonym Nastya Rybka, was part of a group led by author and free sex advocate Alexander Kirillov arrested in February in the Thai resort town of Pattaya while running so-called “sex training” sessions.
Thai police confirmed they are processing the paperwork for the eventual deportation of Vashukevich and Kirillov on charges relating to visa violations, back to Russia.
On Monday CNN met with Vashukevich and Kirillov inside the detention center. The scene was chaotic, loud and miserably hot.
Vashukevich spoke through bars within touching distance of Kirillov, who stood barefoot with other male prisoners behind a second row of bars.
Vashukevich, who claims to be the former mistress of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, says she witnessed several meetings in 2016 and 2017 between Deripaska and at least three un-named Americans.
Deripaska – who denies any affair – is a subject of political intrigue in US political circles, owing to his longstanding relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“They had a plan for the election,” says Vashukevich of the men.
When he was confronted by CNN last year, Deripaska called allegations that he may have been a back channel from the Kremlin to the Trump campaign “fake news.”
Regarding his alleged relationship with Vashukevich, a spokesperson for Deripaska told CNN: “This is clearly an attempt by Anastasia Vashukevitch (aka Nastya Rybka) to politicize the accusations of the Thai police. There have been endless fictitious stories told by her, all serving to distract the public from real violations, including very serious breaches of law of many countries.”
Vashukevich says she has photos of one of the Americans meeting with Deripaska, as well as more than an hour of audio recordings.
But she refuses to name the Americans.
Vashukevich and Kirillov told CNN they are afraid to reveal potentially compromising information, in the event they are deported back to Russia.
They have made public appeals to the US government to speak to them, but they say so far no US official has visited them in jail.
“If I was an ambassador and there was information affecting the country I love and I didn’t do anything, it would be very silly,” Vashukevich told CNN.
‘A matter of life or death’
Back outside the detention center, Pavlo Yunko, a Ukrainian-American tourist who says he paid around $400 to attend Vashukevich and Kirillov’s week-long “sex training” course, described the predicament now facing the pair as “a matter of life and death.”
Yunko claims to have been passed a hand-written note from Kirillov shortly after his arrest, which he says he personally delivered to an official at the US Embassy in Bangkok.
“We ask you political asylim [sic] and help us and protect us as quickly as possible, because we have very important information for USA and we risk our lives very much,” read the note.
“We have photo-video-audio of crymes [sic] of Russian government and I give them USA if you help us,” he added.
Jillian Bonnardeaux, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Bangkok, told CNN on Monday she was aware of media reports of the arrests and the letter seeking asylum, but referred inquiries to Thai law enforcement.
“We refer all inquiries about asylum and asylum procedures to the DHS,” Bonnardeaux added, referring to the US Department of Homeland Security.
Strange days are these
Vashukevich came into the spotlight after publishing footage from social media of a 2016 meeting on a private yacht between Deripaska and Russian deputy prime minister Sergey Prikhodko, during which the two men could be heard discussing Russia’s poor relationship with the United States.
Deripaska is an ex-business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Manafort, who provided investment and consulting services to Deripaska, worked for the Russian billionaire about a decade ago, according to both men.
According to emails described to The Washington Post, Manafort, through an intermediary, offered to provide Deripaska with “private briefings” about the state of the Trump campaign.
Speaking to CNN, a spokesperson for Deripaska denied allegations that the billionaire received any communications regarding private briefings.
Manafort’s spokesman told the Post that any briefing offered on the state of the campaign would have been “routine,” but that no briefings took place.
While on the way to detention in Thailand, Vashukevich published a video on her Instagram account begging US journalists to help her.
“I’m ready to give you all the missing puzzle pieces, support them with videos and audios, regarding the connections of our respected lawmakers with Trump, Manafort and the rest. I know a lot. I’m waiting for your offers and I’m waiting for you in a Thai prison,” she said.
On Monday, speaking inside the detention center, Kirillov repeated this claim, saying he had seen photos of one of the unnamed Americans meeting with Deripaska.
Kirillov claims he tried and failed through a friend to contact the FBI while in Dubai in February. He also says he planned to travel to the US to try to meet with US officials after the week-long “sex training course” he ran in Pattaya. Those plans were foiled when Thai police burst into the last session of the sex course.
Free sex advocates
The claims made by Vashukevich and Kirillov might not normally hold much water.
Both describe themselves as free sex advocates whose Instagram feeds are full of scantily clad photos of themselves cavorting with other half-naked young women.
But allegations and revelations of an affair Vashukevich made in her book “Diary of the Seduction of a Billionaire” gained traction thanks to an investigation by the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
In his video, Navalny revealed that the un-named oligarch in the book was Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska. Navalny highlighted social media posts from Vashukevich showing her next to Deripaska on a yacht alongside the Russian deputy prime minister Sergey Prikhodko.
Asked about Navalny’s investigation, Vashukevich told CNN “it was all correct.”
In the Thai jail, Vashukevich and Kirillov looked uncomfortable and desperate. They said conditions were over-crowded and miserable. They relied on food brought in every other day by friends.
The lawyer representing them says she was surprised at how long it was taking to deport the jailed “sex coaches.”
“Normally my clients are deported in one or two days,” said Elena Fominykh, a Russian-speaking legal advisor and private investigator based in Bangkok.
The arrests of the pair are a worrying turn for a group of Russian-speaking acolytes of Kirillov, author of books “Life Without Panties” and “The Game of Master and Huntress.”
On Monday, Ukrainian native Maria Skulbeda waited outside the detention center in the sweltering heat in the hopes of arranging an appointment to meet Kirillov and Vashukevich.
The 21-year-old Skulbeda described Kirillov as a kind of sexual revolutionary, who teaches his followers a belief system of “freedom, sex and love” that revolves around the art of seduction.
“I am an employee, I am a friend, I am a lover,” said Skulbeda, of her relationship with Kirillov.
Deripaska, she said, was well known within the group to be a target of seduction by Vashukevich.
A spokesperson for Deripaska denied claims he was romantically involved with Vashukevich.
Now, Skulbeda fears what may happen if her friends are deported to Russia.
“First, they are in danger. Second, they have information, and third, we are afraid for their lives.”
CNN’s Matthew Chance and Emma Burrows in Moscow contributed to this report