Nastya Rybka
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Nastya Rybka
After the arrest of escort Nastya Rybka in Russia, Western media has revived her claims of owning tapes proving collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin. One problem: there's still no reason to believe they ever existed.

Allegations by the part-time "sex coach" made the headlines of most leading English-language outlets, while the articles focused on the dramatic video in which she struggles against law enforcement awkwardly bundling her into a wheelchair at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

Audiences predominantly had to read down to the middle of the text to discover that she was charged by the Russian authorities with inducement into prostitution, a crime remarkably similar to the conspiracy and soliciting prostitution sentences to which she pleaded in Thailand earlier this week, having spent a year behind bars for organizing paid-to-play orgies in the coastal resort of Pattaya.


There also seemed to be a new-found coyness on behalf of a woman who rose to niche internet fame with an amateur video of her and another female "seduction specialist" having sex outdoors with a stranger, an incident that led to yet another criminal charge. 28-year-old Rybka, real name Anastasia Vashukevich, a citizen of Belarus, was referred to as a "model" and "expert," which would be akin to calling the US president a best-selling author and amateur golfer.

Newspapers rehashed the details of her claims - that she possesses what she once claimed was between 16 and 18 hours of clandestinely-recorded audio featuring Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, on whose yacht she had spent time in 2016. From this, the now-familiar web of connections was spun to include his former business partner and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, special counsel Robert Mueller and the US president himself. While giving them weight, newspapers stayed clear of libel by remaining non-committal on the veracity of Rybka's words.

'Outrageous'

Others weren't so calculating.

"This is outrageous. Natalia [sic] Rybka is attested [sic] and brutally manhandled the moment she touched down in Moscow after being deported from Thailand," wrote noted Kremlin admirer Bill Browder. "Just to remind you, she secretly taped Deripaska on his yacht with a senior Russian official talking about manipulating US politics."



See, no need for an "allegedly" there. That was the tone picked up by most on social media, who had already made up their mind about Russian meddling some way through the last election cycle.

Solemnly, dozens of commentators bemoaned that Rybka had been "betrayed by the US" that failed to extradite her, and feared that she would "never be seen again."

The journey from a social-media floozy to someone who former BBC journalist Leonid Ragozin praised as "almost like a seasoned activist" on her return to Moscow, to martyr for collusion is almost complete.

'Pretty bizarre story'

Yet as Rybka's tape story makes a zombie-like return into public consciousness, this is perhaps the place to remember why it disappeared from there in the first place.

The Deripaska trip off the coast of Norway had already come to public attention by the time Rybka was arrested in Thailand in early 2018, over the purported presence of not just the aluminum tycoon but a senior Russian politician, which is why it was picked up by the opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who used her videos from the yacht to attack the Kremlin.

At this point, Rybka had spoken broadly about the incident, including in a book on seducing billionaires she'd published, but made no mention of any compromising conversation. Then in February, she suddenly revealed the existence of her trove of materials that - if true - would be the biggest scoop anywhere in the world, could net her millions of dollars, and change the course of world history.

All the lucky first listener would have to do would be to get her out of Thai jail and guarantee Rybka asylum in the United States. Is that not a good deal? And what convenient timing, too.

But the US didn't seem won over. Despite friendly relations with Thailand, Washington did not insist on extradition.

"We support and assist American citizens. She is not an American citizen," said the US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, calling Rybka's allegations a "pretty bizarre story."

Rybka's representatives also said that people introducing themselves as FBI agents came to interview her while she was in jail, yet that did not appear to produce any substantial leads either.

By August, she was telling the New York Times that she no longer wanted to make the tapes public, and had sent copies to Deripaska himself, because she still wanted "to be friends" with him. He has not confirmed receipt.

Who would you choose to believe?

Judging someone's claims by their reputation is an imperfect exercise, but in the absence of proof, Rybka leaves no other choice. And her name, real or adopted, does not have any particular track record of rectitude - and not because she is a sex worker.


This is a woman who protested naked outside the US embassy in support of Harvey Weinstein following the #MeToo allegations, offered the aforementioned Navalny to make a sex tape and claimed he was in love with her, and - worse than selling her body - helped hawk her "sexual master's" pick-up courses.

It's not even that she is lying, it's more curious that people would take her words seriously in the first place. Some may argue that it is an indictment of Trump that people would rather believe a Russian prostitute than their own president, but if you choose to take her audio tape story at face value, what does it say about your own perceptiveness?

Oh, and by the way, the maximum sentence for inducement to prostitution in Russia is six years, and she hasn't actually yet been sentenced. So you can be sure we will be hearing from Rybka again.