Author’s note: the odyssey of “Nastya Rybka”—real name Anastasia Vashukevich—has only recently become even more complex with her deportation from Thailand and rough apprehension, detention, and shady release by authorities in Russia at the apparent behest of Russian billionaire oligarch and close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, who clearly felt threatened enough by her to take drastic action to silence her. That it was also recently revealed that Manafort shared internal polling data during the 2016 campaign (i.e., collusion) with Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime Manafort partner with clear ties to Russian intelligence and who was acting as a go-between for Manafort and Deripaska, only adds to the importance of this saga withing the Trump-Russia saga.
How an Entrepreneurial Russian Prostitute Further Exposed Team Trump’s Love Affair with Team Putin
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse February 19, 2018
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AMMAN—While I am proud of the following analysis, I want to point out that the brave Russian dissident, Alexey Navalny, deserve the real credit: he is placing his career as an activist and would-be politician, his family, his freedom, and his very health and life at risk in exposing the blatant, sordid truth about Putin and his henchmen and, in this case, their ties to Trump.
Navalny, who was trying to run against Putin for the presidency but whom Russian authorities have barred from competing in the election and have charged with bogus crimes, has been famous for some time for creating incredibly sharp YouTube videos exposing the corruption of top Russian officials à la Bill Browder (English/Russian Русский) of Magntisky Act fame.
One of Navalny’s latest videos was sparked by a group of apparent call girls who descended upon his office and tried to manufacture controversy for Navalny; this effort backfired as one of the young women, a prostitute who calls herself “Nastya Rybka,” was easily identifiable from social media, and the much of the rest of the information presented in this video was from her online posts and a book she wrote. Navalny was able to put together what seems to be incontrovertible proof from public data and the verifiable information provided by “Rybka” to place her, Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and a special guest on a yacht in Scandinavian waters in August of 2016.
If Deripaska’s name sounds familiar, it is because he is at the center of a good chunk of the intrigue surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. He is a fabulously wealthy Russian billionaire, an aluminum magnate and close Putinally who has his own history with organized crime that has prevented him from getting a U.S. visa (even with 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole lobbying on his behalf). Deripaska partnered for years with Paul Manafort, Trump’s Campaign Chairman when Trump as a candidate closed out the Republican primaries and accepted the nomination at the Republican National Convention, and Rick Gates, a longtime aide to Manafort, on a number of shady multimillion-dollar shadow deals. One scheme involved a failed effort at trying to bend the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro to Moscow’s will (interesting in light of an apparent recent Russian-backed failed coup attempt there late in 2016).
Another one of their projects involved Deripaska paying Manafort millions for promoting Putin’s and Russia’s interests, and a third, which Rick Gates joined, involved laundering millions for then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his inner circle, who were living astoundingly exorbitant lifestyles with the funds. That third caper eventually left Manafort and Gates in a messy financial dispute with Deripaska in the Cayman Islands, and after NBC News revealed the existence of a previously unknown $26 million loan with which Deripaska has graced Manafort, the level of publicly known business dealings between the two men rose to some $60 million. So one could say that Manafort, and to a lesser extend Gates, owed Derispaska bigtime after their joint work helping Putin and Yanukovych.
The pro-Russian Yanukovych was then-outgoing-Ukrainian (also pro-Russian) President Leonid Kuchma’s chosen successor back in 2004, and Kuchma tried to rig the election in Yanukovych’s favor, sparking Ukraine’s Orange Revolution that ended up seeing more pro-Western, more anti-Russian leaders come to power. After this, it would be the task of Manafort (with the help of Gates) to restore Yanukovych’s image and electoral prospects. Yanukovych was essentially Putin’s stooge in a dramatic stage play that eventually helped to subvert Ukraine to the Kremlin’s will, increasing the power of Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party—the Party of Regions—and finally seeing Yanukovych emerge as the victor in the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election. This remarkable comeback was accomplished with a massive political and lobbying effort—run by Manafort with Gates’s help—on behalf of Yanukovych and his Party of Regions (and its successor)—conducted side-by-side with an even more massive alleged money laundering scheme worth billions involving Ukrainian-Russian gas deals and the Russian mafia. Manafort is alleged to have played key roles in this operation, too, working with oligarchs and the Russian mafia to launder money through sham New York real estate deals. The proceeds of this overall scam allegedly went to fund Yanukovych and his political party and to bribe and control other Ukrainian politicians in order to bring them along to the Russian way of thinking at a time when the U.S. was working hard to strengthen its relations with Ukraine, meaning Manafort and Gates were acting against U.S. interests. This work of theirs continued until just before they ended upon Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. They have now both been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in part because of money laundering related to this work in Ukraine.
In putting the pieces together, Navalny was able to show that Deripaska was in close consultation on Russian policy with that special guest on his yacht: one of Russia’s deputy prime ministers, Sergei Prikhodko, a rare longtime survivor in Russia’s top leadership (one of the only major players from the days of Boris Yeltsin, Putin’s predecessor, to still be in place) who has a tremendous amount influence over Russian foreign policy, even greater than Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to Navalny.
Navalny was able to piece all this together because that particularly entrepreneurial Russian escort, who claims to be Deripaska’s mistress, captured pictures and videos of the two Russian giants talking over such matters on board Deripaska’s yacht, enjoying a holiday in Scandinavian waters with the company of young escorts. In one of “Rybka’s” videos, Deripaska and Prikhodko and were discussing that favorite Russian punching bag, Victoria Nuland, a prominent former U.S. State Department official known for fighting against Russian geopolitical schemes, and the intrepid escort notes that they talked about many other political issues. She alleges in her book that Prikhodko (named only as “Papa” in the book) engaged in aggressive sexual harassment against her and others, and that Deripaska (given the moniker “Ruslan”) did not lift a finger to stop it, the only person to which the billionaire gave that kind of deference.
Manafort reached out to Deripaska on July 7th, 2016, when he was still Trump’s Campaign Chairman, offering to brief him on Trump’s presidential campaign, presumably because of Deripaska’s closeness to Putin and senior Russian government officials. Deripaska’s yacht trip with Prikhodko began on August 6th, less than a month after Manafort offered to brief Deripaska.
This is direct evidence that Deripaska was in contact with senior Russia government officials, discussing policy, at roughly same time that Manafort was reaching out to him, and makes an even more compelling argument that Deripaska is still acting as an intermediary for the Kremlin and that Manafort’s relationship with Deripaska is one that could have compromised national security and Americans interests.
Russia is already trying to block Navalny’s video in Russia and Deripaska is threatening to sue media outlets that report on it, and in an attack on Navalny in response to his video, Prikhodko referred to Deripaska as “my friend,” hardly denying their closeness.
Correction appended: this article originally misstated that Manafort’s home was raided by the FBI July 26th, 2016, but it was actually 2017.
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