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'Sex Trainer,' Escort 'Nastya Rybka' Released But Remains Suspect, Lawyer Says


Anastasia Vashukevich, also known as Nastya Rybka, sits inside a defendants' cage before a court hearing in Moscow on January 19.

A Belarusian escort and self-described sex trainer who claimed to have evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has been released from the custody of Russian police, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

Anastasia Vashukevich, who is also known as Nastya Rybka, was freed on January 22 along with her mentor, Aleksandr Kirillov, according to Kirillov's attorney, Svetlana Sidorkina.

"They've just freed our client and Vashukevich from the isolator," Sidorkina said, referring to a police jail cell or holding pen. She said both remained suspects in a case against them on prostitution-related charges and were ordered to appear for questioning at a later date.

The development 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 former longtime foreign-policy aide to President Vladimir Putin.

Vashukevich and Kirillov, also known as Alex Lesley, were later arrested in the Thai beach resort of Pattaya while giving 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.

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.

Belarusian officials, meanwhile, made their first comments about Vashukevich's detention, with President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's spokeswoman saying that Lukashenka "has given orders to immediately work on the release of the citizen of Belarus."

Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey was quoted as saying that Vashukevich was free to come to Belarus but must return to Moscow for her next court hearing.

Also, Navalny's organization has published new audio files that it says include recordings of phone calls involving Deripaska and associates. In a post to the organization's website on January 21, Navalny said the recordings were received several months ago, and appear to be authentic.

In one of them, three people can be heard discussing Vashukevich's then-detention in Thailand, with one man named Georgy insisting that Vashukevich and the others with her need to be kept in detention.

Navalny said the man was in fact Georgy Oganov, an adviser to Deripaska and a board member at one of his industrial companies.

A second recording appears to show a conversation between Deripaska and a man Navalny says is the head of the company that owned the yacht on which Deripaska, Prikhodko, and Vashukevich were shown in in the February 2018 video.

With reporting by TASS, The Bell, and Reuters
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