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Belarusian 'Sex Trainer' Stands Up The Press, Praises 'President Of My Favorite Country'

Anastasia Vashukevich -- also known as Nastya Rybka -- appears in a Moscow courtroom on January 19.
Anastasia Vashukevich -- also known as Nastya Rybka -- appears in a Moscow courtroom on January 19.

Self-described "sex trainer" Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, was a no-show at her own press conference, a day after her release from police custody in Russia.

But the Belarusian escort whose purported footage from a Kremlin-linked tycoon's yacht made waves in 2018 attracted attention anyway on January 23, apologizing to the media in a Twitter-posted video and thanking "the president of my favorite country."

The 56-second video was a new twist in a tale that has touched on two members of Russian President Vladimir Putin's circle, months in a Thai jail, and a still-unsubstantiated claim that she has information about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Vashukevich did not name her "favorite country" or its leader, but seemed to be referring to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who Belarusian diplomats hinted had used his influence to secure her release from custody in Moscow.

That claim conflicted with the words of Vashukevich's lawyer, Dmitry Zatsarinsky, who suggested to reporters at a press conference in Moscow hours earlier that Belarusian authorities had not been involved.

Reporters at the press conference had been expecting Vashukevich and her mentor, self-styled sex guru Aleksandr Kirillov, but neither of them showed up at the event.

Zatsarinsky irritated the journalists present and those watching one of several live streams of the press conference by refusing to call her, saying he didn't want to disturb her because she was probably relaxing.

In the video posted on Twitter, Vashukevich apologized for missing the press conference, thanked the unnamed president for his help, saying in a scratchy voice that she has fallen ill and feels "very bad."

"I will definitely tell everything: What it was like for us in jail, what happened, whom I suspect," she said, without elaborating. "Just give me at least a couple of days to recover."

The developments came nearly a year after Vashukevich became the focus of a geopolitical scandal when Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny published an expose based largely on photos and video she had posted on social media.

The photos and videos appeared to show her on a yacht with Kremlin-connected tycoon Oleg Derispaska and Sergei Prikhodko, a Russian deputy prime minister at the time and a longtime former foreign-policy aide to Putin.

Vashukevich and Kirillov, also known as Alex Lesley, were later arrested in the Thai beach resort of Pattaya while giving what they said was a class in sexual relationships, and spent about nine months in jail on charges of soliciting to provide sexual services before being released and deported earlier this month.

Upon arrival in Moscow, both were detained at Sheremetyevo airport -- where Vashukevich was prevented from traveling on to Belarus and was treated roughly by plainclothes officers.

'Nastya Rybka' To Remain In Custody, Apologizes To Deripaska
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She and Kirillov were detained on suspicion of luring people into prostitution, a crime that is punishable by up to three years in prison, and a court on January 19 ordered them held for another 72 hours. The widespread expectation was that Vashukevich would then be jailed for a longer period of time while awaiting a possible trial.

Vashukevich, 28, earlier claimed to have recordings of Deripaska talking about interference in the 2016 U.S. election in which President Donald Trump was elected, but never released them and suggested in comments after her detention that she would not do so.

Deripaska is close to Putin and had a working relationship with Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman who was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller and convicted last year of tax and bank fraud.

The report published in February 2018 by Russian opposition politician Navalny's anticorruption outfit, drawing on photographs and video that Vashukevich published on Instagram in 2016, appeared to show Prikhodko being offered lavish treatment on Deripaska's yacht. The two also appear to discuss U.S. politics.

Vashukevich, who was pictured on the yacht, says she had an affair with Deripaska. Representatives of the tycoon have accused her of fabrication and have said that she was never his mistress.

Vashukevich and Kirillov made international headlines again when they asked for asylum in the United States while detained in Thailand -- a request that did not pan out.

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    Steve Gutterman

    Steve Gutterman is the editor of the Russia/Ukraine/Belarus Desk in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom in Prague and the author of The Week In Russia newsletter. He lived and worked in Russia and the former Soviet Union for nearly 20 years between 1989 and 2014, including postings in Moscow with the AP and Reuters. He has also reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as other parts of Asia, Europe, and the United States.