Russian sex guru, follower blame US for continued detention - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Russian sex guru, follower blame US for continued detention

(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe). Anastasia Vashukevich sits inside a prison transport vehicle outside a courthouse in Pattaya, south of Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 17, 2018.  Russian sex guru and his followers, one of whom claims to have evidence o... (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe). Anastasia Vashukevich sits inside a prison transport vehicle outside a courthouse in Pattaya, south of Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Russian sex guru and his followers, one of whom claims to have evidence o...

By KAWEEWIT KAEWJINDA
Associated Press

PATTAYA, Thailand (AP) - A Russian sex guru and his followers, one of whom claims to have evidence of Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, were acquitted Tuesday of violating labor laws in Thailand but still face other charges that could land them in prison for more than 10 years.

Alexander Kirillov and follower Anastasia Vashukevich, a model and escort, told reporters they placed the blame for their continued detention on U.S. officials, to whom they previously appealed for help and political asylum.

Vashukevich's earlier revelation of an alleged affair with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir Putin, fueled opposition allegations in Russia of official corruption and enraged the Kremlin.

Vashukevich claims to have audio recordings of Deripaska that provide evidence of Russian meddling in the U.S. polls.

Deripaska has been linked to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign manager who has been indicted on money laundering charges in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The group was arrested Feb. 25 in a hotel meeting room in Pattaya, a Thai seaside resort city popular with Russian visitors. The sex lessons they hosted were attended by about 40 Russian tourists. Some participants wore T-shirts saying "Sex animator" in English with an arrow pointing to the wearer's crotch.

Kirillov and Vashukevich, with half a dozen other people, were taken Tuesday to a Pattaya court from the immigration detention center in Bangkok where they are being held.

Unashamed sexual activity is business as usual for Pattaya, which is notorious for its sordid nightlife, but the allegations by Vashukevich, who uses the name Nastya Rybka on her racy social media postings, have drawn worldwide attention.

Charges of working without proper permits were dropped Tuesday due to technicalities involving implementation of new regulations for work permits for foreigners, said a lawyer who represented the defendants and was present at their hearing. He spoke to reporters on condition that he not be named.

Foreigners found working without a work permit can face fines of up to 100,000 baht ($3,200) and imprisonment for up to five years.

Police last week added additional charges against them of soliciting to provide sexual services, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, and conspiracy to solicit, which is punishable by up to seven years.

It was unclear when they will be tried on the new charges.

Kirillov, also known as Alex Lesley, and Vashukevich managed to smuggle out a letter soon after they were arrested which was delivered by a friend to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, asking for asylum and saying they had important information about the U.S. election.

They also said they feared for their personal safety, especially if deported to Russia. Vashukevich repeated her claims in comments to reporters before Thai authorities cut off media access to her.

Speaking to the media Tuesday after they were acquitted, they took a more conciliatory tone toward Russia, and a more suspicious one toward U.S. authorities.

On arrival at the court, when reporters asked Kirillov what he wished to tell the U.S., he responded in English: "Help us. Help us any way because we don't know what is happening."

But after his acquittal, he told them he thought that U.S. officials, including the FBI, may have been trying to engineer the legal proceedings to keep them in Thai detention for three or four months. In broken English, he appeared to suggest the Americans wanted to find the alleged evidence themselves rather than get it by dealing with them.

"This information is much more interesting for the American side. I think Russia is not involved so much as we thought about this," he said.

He added that Vashukevich wrote a message for Deripaska to tell him hello and that she was waiting for him to "'come and do something' because this is everything about his case and she don't want to participate in some political situation. This is love story."

Vashukevich, speaking in Russian, voiced similar sentiments.

"I want to say this to Oleg Deripaska and say that we were wrong, it's not the Russian government who are trying to put us in jail, it's the Americans."

At the same time, she insisted that the recordings she claims to have are still safe. "They took my phone and laptop away from me, because I have all of it on my phone and laptop. But don't worry, many people have it stored safely. And if I want for it to be revealed it will be."

Vashukevich, who carries a passport from Belarus, became the center of a public scandal in early February when Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny published an investigation drawing on her social media posts suggesting corrupt links between Deripaska and a top Kremlin official, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.

The report featured photos from Deripaska's yacht in 2016, when Vashukevich claims she was having an affair with him and allegedly recorded him.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Government shutdown endNational politicsMore>>

  • The Latest: Mike Pompeo is sworn in as secretary of state

    The Latest: Mike Pompeo is sworn in as secretary of state

    Thursday, April 26 2018 1:22 PM EDT2018-04-26 17:22:55 GMT
    Thursday, April 26 2018 2:39 PM EDT2018-04-26 18:39:55 GMT
    (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File). FILE - In this April 12, 2018, file photo Mike Pompeo smiles after his introduction before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a confirmation for him to become the next Secretary of State on Capitol Hill in ...(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File). FILE - In this April 12, 2018, file photo Mike Pompeo smiles after his introduction before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a confirmation for him to become the next Secretary of State on Capitol Hill in ...
    The Senate has narrowly confirmed Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state.More >>
    The Senate has narrowly confirmed Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state.More >>
  • Trump says Cohen represented him in "Stormy Daniels deal"

    Trump says Cohen represented him in "Stormy Daniels deal"

    Thursday, April 26 2018 9:18 AM EDT2018-04-26 13:18:48 GMT
    Thursday, April 26 2018 2:39 PM EDT2018-04-26 18:39:54 GMT
    President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Michael Cohen represents him 'with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal' and that 'from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.' (Source: CNN)President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Michael Cohen represents him 'with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal' and that 'from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong.' (Source: CNN)

    President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Michael Cohen represents him "with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal" and that "from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong."

    More >>

    President Donald Trump says his personal attorney Michael Cohen represents him "with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal" and that "from what I see he did absolutely nothing wrong."

    More >>
  • Senate committee OKs bill to safeguard special counsel

    Senate committee OKs bill to safeguard special counsel

    Thursday, April 26 2018 12:28 AM EDT2018-04-26 04:28:40 GMT
    Thursday, April 26 2018 2:39 PM EDT2018-04-26 18:39:50 GMT
    (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File). FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. Rep...(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File). FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. Rep...

    Senate panel expected to vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job, a bill that has split Republicans.

    More >>

    Senate panel expected to vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's job, a bill that has split Republicans.

    More >>
  • NationalMore>>

  • Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park changed over racist past

    Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park changed over racist past

    Thursday, April 26 2018 11:30 AM EDT2018-04-26 15:30:34 GMT
    Thursday, April 26 2018 3:11 PM EDT2018-04-26 19:11:53 GMT
    The city of Boston has approved a plan to change the name of Yawkey Way, the street near Fenway Park named in honor of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who some have said was racist.More >>
    The city of Boston has approved a plan to change the name of Yawkey Way, the street near Fenway Park named in honor of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who some have said was racist.More >>
  • 2 black men 'humiliated' when gym staffers called police

    2 black men 'humiliated' when gym staffers called police

    Thursday, April 26 2018 10:21 AM EDT2018-04-26 14:21:42 GMT
    Thursday, April 26 2018 3:11 PM EDT2018-04-26 19:11:51 GMT
    Two black men who were wrongly accused of not paying to work out at a gym in New Jersey say they were humiliated when staffers there twice called police on them.More >>
    Two black men who were wrongly accused of not paying to work out at a gym in New Jersey say they were humiliated when staffers there twice called police on them.More >>
  • Explosion rocks Wisconsin refinery, at least 11 hurt

    Explosion rocks Wisconsin refinery, at least 11 hurt

    Thursday, April 26 2018 12:38 PM EDT2018-04-26 16:38:58 GMT
    Thursday, April 26 2018 3:11 PM EDT2018-04-26 19:11:50 GMT
    A fire burns after an explosion at a refinery in Wisconsin that wounded multiple people on Thursday. (Source: WCCO/CNN)A fire burns after an explosion at a refinery in Wisconsin that wounded multiple people on Thursday. (Source: WCCO/CNN)

    Several people have been injured in an explosion at a refinery in Wisconsin.

    More >>

    Several people have been injured in an explosion at a refinery in Wisconsin.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly