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This Is The Absolute Craziest Russian Scandal That You've Probably Never Heard Of

This Russian woman was revealed to be at the heart of a scandal involving a billionaire and a politician. Now she wants to get out of a Thai prison to get asylum in the US.

Last updated on March 1, 2018, at 10:31 a.m. ET

Posted on February 28, 2018, at 11:03 p.m. ET

The big story in Russia these days is a wild one: it involves a sex worker trying to escape a Thai prison for the safety of the US with the promise that she has dirt on President Donald Trump.

That's a lot to process, so let's back up to the beginning.
youtube.com

That's a lot to process, so let's back up to the beginning.

Earlier this month, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny posted a video investigation that used the Instagram posts of a woman with the handle Nastya Rybka to build a corruption investigation involving one of Russia's wealthiest men and a powerful government official.

Rybka — who is actually a Belarus-born woman named Anastasia Vashukevich — works as an escort, which is how she wound up posting a video of her and others cavorting with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Also seen in the video hanging out on Deripaska's yacht: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, which Nalvany said showed the close link between oligarchs and the Russian government.
youtube.com

Rybka — who is actually a Belarus-born woman named Anastasia Vashukevich — works as an escort, which is how she wound up posting a video of her and others cavorting with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. Also seen in the video hanging out on Deripaska's yacht: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, which Nalvany said showed the close link between oligarchs and the Russian government.

The video became a whole to-do in Russia, where Deripaska has sued Instagram and YouTube to remove Rybka's posts and Nalvany's investigation.

Rybka apparently took down most of the posts on her own but Instagram — which is owned by Facebook — took down the last two to comply with a Russian court order. (The YouTube videos are still up.) Meanwhile, things get tricky when it comes to Deripaska because he used to employ Paul Manafort, Trump's one-time campaign manager who is under investigation for money laundering. But we'll come back to him.
Olga Maltseva / AFP / Getty Images

Rybka apparently took down most of the posts on her own but Instagram — which is owned by Facebook — took down the last two to comply with a Russian court order. (The YouTube videos are still up.) Meanwhile, things get tricky when it comes to Deripaska because he used to employ Paul Manafort, Trump's one-time campaign manager who is under investigation for money laundering. But we'll come back to him.

The story got a new ~twist~ over the weekend, when Rybka was detained — along with nine other Russians — in Thailand for teaching a course on how to have good sex.

Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty Images

On Tuesday, Rybka began posting on Instagram from prison, claiming that the Thai police wanted to hand her back over to Russia, who would then kill her.

Instagram: @nastya_rybka

"I am ready to tell you all the missing puzzle pieces that you were missing," she said in a message to the US press. "To confirm audio and video touching on the connection of our politicians, Manafort, Trump, and all that noise in the US. I know a lot."

Instagram: @nastya_rybka

“In exchange for help from US intelligence services and a guarantee of my safety, I am prepared to provide the necessary information to America or to Europe or to the country which can buy me out of Thai prison,” she said in a separate live video, according to the Washington Post. She provided no evidence, though, that she actually could deliver what she claimed.

A handwritten letter — allegedly sent to the US Embassy in Thailand — also asked for assistance, offering up proof of Russian "crymes" in exchange for aid.

This Nastya Rybka story is too much. Here’s their letter to the US Embassy in Bangkok offering Trump-Russia dirt.

Keith Gessen, a professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, who posted the letter on Twitter told BuzzFeed he got the document from an attendee of the sex workshop Rybka was holding — a man named Pavlo Yunko who is serving as Rybka's contact with the media.

Yunko confirmed to BuzzFeed News via WhatsApp that he was the one who'd taken the picture of the letter. The letter, he said, was provided to a US embassy official in Bangkok but he has not heard back from them yet. Yunko also noted that he was an acquaintance of Rybka and neither she nor the people arrested alongside her had shown him any evidence of their claims about Trump.

The State Department directed questions about asylum to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

If the US is going to step in, they'll have to do it soon. Another post from Rybka's account claimed that she was sick in her cell without access to a doctor and in worse conditions than before as retribution for cooperating with Navalny.

Instagram: @nastya_rybka

Whether or not her conditions are as bad as claimed, the reception back in Russia is likely to be a less than pleasant one.

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