A Belarusian escort whose reported relationship with a Russian billionaire put her at the center of a geopolitical scandal has been handed a suspended sentence by a Thai court on charges of soliciting to provide sexual services and ordered deported.
A court in the beach resort city of Pattaya ruled on January 15 that Anastasia Vashukevich, who also goes by the name Nastya Rybka, must serve nine months of her three-year suspended sentence in prison, a term equal to the time she has already served in pretrial detention.
The court issued identical rulings for her partner, Aleksandr Kirillov, known as Alex Lesley, and six other citizens of Russia and Belarus who were arrested along with the pair almost a year ago.
Vashukevich and her associates will be fined the equivalent of $6,000 each and deported to Russia and Belarus, the court ordered.
"The court found them all guilty of soliciting sex," said a judge on the panel, adding: "The court releases them today."
Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said all eight would be transferred to an immigration detention center in Bangkok and deported, a process he said would take about a week.
"They are blacklisted from Thailand permanently for conducting bad deeds," Surachate told the news agency AFP.
It was not immediately clear where Vashukevich would be sent, but Surachate said he would be coordinating the deportations with the Russian government.
The court's ruling is the latest twist in a saga that started in February 2018, when Russian anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny published an expose appearing to show a former deputy Russian prime minister off the coast of Norway on a yacht belonging to the Kremlin-linked oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Navalny's report, which drew on photographs and video that Vashukevich published on Instagram in 2016, appeared to show then-Deputy Prime Minister Sergei 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.
Vashukevich and Kirillov made international headlines again when, shortly after their arrest in Pattaya, they asked for U.S. asylum.
Vashukevich claimed that she could reveal details about Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. election.
Deripaska, who is one of several Russian tycoons hit by U.S. sanctions, was once an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's ex-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
As the group arrived at the courthouse for the ruling, Kirillov told reporters, "I think somebody ordered [the arrests]...for money."
Vashukevich and Kirillov could face legal problems in Russia, where Deripaska won an invasion of privacy lawsuit against them in July over the yacht video.