Secrets from jail by Russians in Pattaya
A Russian woman in Thai custody says she will trade secrets on Russian interference in the 2016 US election if the Americans can prevent her from being deported to Russia.
Anastasia Vashukevich, whose affair with a married Russian oligarch caught up in the investigation into Russian election meddling has inflamed the Kremlin, told Khaosod English she has first-hand knowledge to trade – if the Americans can help keep them out of Russian hands.
Vashukevich was arrested Sunday in Pattaya where she was participating in an “advanced sex” class with a Russian libertine known as Aleksandr Kirillov, whose persona online is Alexander Lesley. Eight other Russians were arrested along with them and charged with working without permission. One was charged for overstaying their visa.
They fled Russia three weeks ago when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny published the salacious details of Vashukevich’s affair – as she detailed on Instagram – with billionaire Oleg Deripaska.
Within hours of Navalny’s video being published, which also showed photographs of a Russian deputy prime minister on a pleasure cruise with Deripaska and Vashukevich, a Russian court ordered the video banned along with most of Navalny’s websites.
Russia has threatened to ban YouTube and Instagram if all of the content is not removed.
In an exclusive interview with Khaosod English, Kirillov said they have specific additional information about Russian meddling they will trade in return for American protection.
“Russia wants us back because of what we know, because of Navalny,” Kirillov said.
Deripaska was close to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who faces a growing list of charges brought by special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling and seems intent on flipping Manafort. Manafort insists he is innocent.
The deputy premier on the boat was Sergei Prikhodko, who weighs heavily on Russian foreign policy and is accused of taking bribes from Deripaska. Deripaska offered to testify about Russian meddling in May last year in return for full immunity from the US Congress – which turned him down.
“[Anastasia] was with Deripaska and [Sergei] Prikhodko. We’re asking for political asylum because the Russians want to get us back and put in jail [sic],” Kirillov said.
The 10 Russians were taken to the Pattaya Provincial Court on Tuesday afternoon for a custody hearing. Although they’d been told to expect to be released on bail, the court ordered they be held.
Police outside the court said the word had come from Bangkok: The Russians’ stay was revoked, and they were to be deported home. Guards outside the courtroom were astonished by the large turnout of more than 20 regular and immigration police officers who showed up to escort them away.
“Why do we need so many cops? Are we bringing in Khun Sa?” a court security officer said, referring to a late, legendary Burmese drug lord.
Khaosod English reporters followed the police convoy to the local immigration bureau, where the Russians attempted to secret out a letter to an associate that was intercepted by immigration police.
A copy of the letter was later obtained by Khaosod English and is being transcribed.
The Russian Embassy in Bangkok declined to answer questions about the story. A man who answered the phone said he could not comment on the case.
A US Embassy spokeswoman said the Russians could reach out for help “through the appropriate channels.”
Although it’s impossible to verify their claims, dismissing the Russians as self-promoting opportunists is complicated by the furious reaction from Moscow, which moved to shut down most of Navalny’s online presence and made his video illegal for Russians to watch. The media there is closely following the story of Vashukevich and Kirillov in Thailand as well.
On Tuesday, Vitaly Milonov, a member of the State Duma, said Kirillov and all arrested with him should be punished to the utmost in Thailand.
“If possible, he should not be released. I hope he stays in the scariest Thai prison, lying with rotting worms because he is evil. He broke the law with his psychotic actions. If Russia cannot contain this person, then let him rot in a Thai prison,” Milonov told Russia’s Channel 5.
Milonov went on to say that all the people attending Lesley’s clases should also be prosecuted without aid from a lawyer.
“All of them are stupid and crazy, low-class prostitutes. Don’t let them use a lawyer no matter what circumstances. The prosecutors should check them for drugs and act on them according to Thai law,” Milonov said.
As of last night, the Russians were due to be taken to an immigration detention center.
Chonburi immigration commander Songpoad Sirisuka said their stay in Thailand was revoked because they were caught working without a permit. He said the “immoral” nature of their work was also part of the consideration.
Working without permit in Thailand is punishable by up to five years in prison, but the court typically suspends the sentence, clearing way for authorities to deport the convicted foreigners immediately.
Their lawyer Thana Siwadonwanit protested the decision, saying it’s unusual suspects accused of immigration violations have their stay revoked as fast.
“Bullshit!” Thana shouted when he first heard about the order Tuesday night.
He elaborated on Wednesday morning that his clients have the right to a fair trial, and their visas should only be repealed if they are found guilty. Thana also suspected that police might have a hidden agenda behind taking immediate action against the group.
“The law has been used up to what they wish. They are now revoking visas without valid reasons,” Thana said. “I want to know what reason they really gave. I haven’t seen the actual document yet.”