Opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny announced on Monday that he has learned about recordings of telephone calls apparently involving Oleg Deripaska and some of Deripaska's associates. Navalny says an anonymous source contacted him “a couple of months ago” with several tapes uploaded to YouTube. Navalny says he believes the recordings are authentic, arguing that the voice on file sounds like Deripaska's. He also points out that Deripaska filed a lawsuit in the town of Ust-Labinsk (where the billionaire is registered) demanding that Russian Internet service providers block access to this data.
There are three different audio recordings: one about the seizure of a water bottling plant, and two about Anastasia Vashukevich (“Nastya Rybka”), including one call that includes people named “Tatiana,” “Georgy,” and “William” talking about Vashukevich’s arrest in Thailand. In the recording, Georgy insists that everyone in Vashukevich’s group needs to be “locked up,” while William points out that Thai law doesn’t imprison “sex trainers.” Georgy then says Vashukevich’s group could be charged with illegal business activities, instead.
In February 2018, when Vashukevich, her associate Alexander Kirillov (who goes by the name “Alex Leslie”), and eight participants in their “sex training” group were arrested in Thailand, they were initially charged with illegal business activity. The 10 suspects were acquitted in April, but subsequently charged with conducting illegal sex work. After pleading guilty, everyone in the group was sentenced to probation and deported.
Who are the voices on the tapes?
Alexey Navalny believes that the “Tatiana” in the audio recording is Tatiana Monegen, the secretary general of the Russian branch of International Chamber of Commerce (which has close ties to Oleg Deripaska). Navalny says “Georgy” is likely Georgy Oganov, the former spokesman for Russia’s U.S. embassy, a board member at Deripaska’s “Basic Element” industrial group, and one of Deripaska’s advisers.
In February 2018, Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation published an investigative report about Deripaska’s yachting excursion with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko. The report was based largely on photographs and videos shared on Instagram by Vashukevich, who was present on the yacht, apparently as an escort. Shortly after the report was released, Thai police arrested Vashukevich and her associates. She says she believes the two events are linked.
How did these “sex trainers” end up prosecuted all over again?
Vashukevich was supposed to be deported home to Belarus, but she and three others were arrested during their layover at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport in connection with a prostitution case (an offense punishable by up to six years in prison). According to the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, officials launched the investigation after two “sex training” graduates came forward and revealed that they had become prostitutes after the program. Sources told The Bell that one of these women was Alexandra Davydova (also known as Sasha Travka), who helped Vashukevich and Kirillov organize the sex-training program (which Vashukevich confirmed in court).
On January 19, Vashukevich was arraigned at Moscow’s Nagatinsky District Court, where she said she is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit. She also apologized personally to Oleg Deripaska, saying, “Mr. Deripaska, please forgive me. I was just a tool and people used me.”
A source familiar with the Russian investigation into Vashukevich and her “sex training” group told Business FM that the case was launched after Alexandra Davydova and her roommate came to the police, claiming that Vashukevich, Kirillov, and others in the group had effectively forced her into prostitution through blackmail and by seizing her Kazakh passport. Besides Vashukevich and Kirillov, there are two other suspects in the case who have been released on their own recognizance: Andrey Zhemko (“Andrey Poker”) and Maria Zharkova. Davydova says another man named Grigory Kogan was also involved in blackmailing her into prostitution work.
Vashukevich and Kirillov return to court on Tuesday, January 22, for a decision about the terms of their arrest during the trial.