A Belarusian escort and self-described sex trainer who claimed to have evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election says the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) "strongly advised" her not to return to her country after months in jail in Thailand.
In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Belarus Service from Moscow on February 22, Anastasia Vashukevich, who is also known as Nastya Rybka, also said that she might get involved in politics in Russia or Belarus in the future.
Vashukevich and her mentor Aleksei Kirillov, aka Alex Lesley, were detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in January upon arrival from Thailand, where they were detained in the beach resort of Pattaya and spent about nine months in jail on charges of soliciting to provide sexual services.
Vashukevich, 28, told RFE/RL that her detainment in Russia was illegal as she was officially deported from Thailand to Belarus, not Russia.
"According to the regulations, my passport was supposed to be returned to me in Minsk. Nobody had a right to stop me [in Moscow airport]," Vashukevich said, adding that she was illegally forced to enter Russia instead of getting on her connecting flight to Minsk.
Video footage showed Vashukevich being detained roughly at the airport, and she told RFE/RL that she was questioned twice while in Moscow but added that "since nobody is bothering me here now, I will stay here for the time being."
Russian authorities said that the she and Kirillov were detained on January 19 upon arrival from Thailand on suspicion of luring people into prostitution, a crime that is punishable by up to three years in prison.
But the two were released three days later amid reports that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered Belarusian diplomats to secure Vashukevich's release.
It was unclear whether that was a factor, and Vashukevich told RFE/RL that she had not expected Lukashenka to get involved.
"I had expected some sort of support in Belarus as I have many friends there. But I certainly did not expect that the president would [deal with the situation] personally," Vashukevich said, speaking Russian in the interview.
Shortly after her release, Vashukevich praised "the president of my favorite country," seemingly referring to Belarus.
Vashukevich became the focus of a geopolitical scandal when Kremlin foe Aleksei Navalny published an expose in February 2018 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.
In custody in Thailand later last year, Vashukevich earlier claimed to have recordings of Deripaska talking about interference in the 2016 U.S. election in which President Donald Trump was elected. But she has never released them and suggested in comments after her detention in Russia 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 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, has said that 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.
Vashukevich told RFE/RL she is currently working on her third book and that the subject is the conditions in Thai jails, where she said cells are overcrowded and the food "cannot be consumed."
Asked whether she has ties with Belarusian tycoons, Vashukevich said that she has many friends among such people and that she might "someday" get involved in politics in Russia or in Belarus.