MOSCOW — A model from Belarus who claimed to have recordings shedding light on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was detained at a Moscow airport Thursday on prostitution allegations, the police said.
The model, Anastasia Vashukevich, had been deported from Thailand earlier in the day after spending nine months in prison on charges of conspiracy and soliciting prostitution.
She was booked to fly to Minsk, Belarus, but was detained along with three others traveling with her as she changed planes at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, according to her husband and another person traveling with her.
No evidence has emerged of the tape that Vashukevich claimed showed contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians. Her arrest in Moscow was unexpected and blocked her from possibly talking to dozens of journalists waiting for her in the airport’s arrivals zone.
Gregory Kogan, a close friend of Vashukevich, asserted that Russian and Belarusan diplomats in Thailand had pledged the group would be safe if they left for Russia or flew via Moscow.
The four now face charges of inducement into prostitution, said a police statement quoted by the Interfax news agency. They face a maximum of six years in prison.
Vashukevich, a model and self-described “sex expert” also known as Nastya Rybka, became an unlikely figure in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Alexei Navalny, a Russian anti-corruption activist, last year highlighted Instagram videos from 2016 apparently showing her on a yacht with Russian metals magnate Oleg Deripaska and a Russian deputy prime minister.
Soon after her apparent connection to Deripaska came to light, Vashukevich and several Russians were arrested while conducting what she described as a sex training seminar for Russian tourists in the Thai resort town of Pattaya. In jail, she pleaded for U.S. help, saying she had recordings revealing ties between Russia and Donald Trump.
Deripaska used to work with Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Deripaska has denied wrongdoing.
On Tuesday, she and her seven co-defendants pleaded guilty in Thai court, clearing the way for them to be deported.
“They’re dumb allegations, with no grounds and no explanation,” her husband, Nikolay Vashukevich, who wasn’t one of the four detained, said in a text message as he waited in the airport’s transit area to learn his wife’s fate.
Helderman reported from Washington.