PATTAYA, Thailand — A model and escort from Belarus who caused a sensation by claiming to have information linking Russian interference to the election of President Donald Trump said Monday that she no longer has the evidence and will not talk about it.
Anastasia Vashukevich, who also uses the name Nastya Rybka, pleaded not guilty to charges of soliciting and conspiracy to solicit in a court appearance in the Thai resort city of Pattaya to prepare for her trial along with seven co-defendants. Lawyers will submit legal submissions at another hearing next week at which the court is expected to set a date for testimony to begin.
Vashukevich, Russian self-styled sex guru Alexander Kirillov and six other people were arrested at a sex training seminar in Pattaya in February and have been in custody ever since. All the defendants, who could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, pleaded not guilty.
Vashukevich told The Associated Press that she had turned over audio recordings to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whose conversations about election interference she claimed to have taped.
She has said she provided "escort" services to Deripaska, who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and who has links to Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager now being tried in the United States on money laundering and other charges.
Speaking to an AP reporter in the courtroom in Pattaya, Vashukevich said she had promised Deripaska she would no longer speak on the matter, and that he had already promised her something in return for not making that evidence public.
"He promised me a little something already," Vashukevich said. "If he do that then there will be no problem, but if he don't ..." she said with a shrug and a smile.
She also shrugged and smiled when asked if she had kept her own copies of the information she recorded, which she said comprised "some audio, some video."
Asked what the material showed, she said, "You'd have to ask Deripaska."
Vashukevich created world headlines when she was first detained because she claimed to have audio recordings of Deripaska that provided evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
She appealed to America for help and for asylum, through a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, but provided no proof of her claims. At a hearing in April, she seemed to switch allegiances, making a public apology to Deripaska and saying it was the Americans, not the Russians, who were persecuting her.
A judge at the Pattaya Provincial Court declared Monday that if the seminar included people having sexual intercourse or arranged for people to have sex, it would be considered illegal by Thai law even if there was mutual consent.
Pattaya is internationally notorious as a destination for sex tourists.
Kirillov, who led the seminar in a meeting room at a Pattaya hotel, told the judge that the seminar taught the art of seduction and did not include sex or make any arrangements for sexual partners.
He said the course taught its students "how to impress girls" and "how to get girls' numbers," and did not involve sexual arrangements.
"We are not sure about Thai law, but in Russia this is not a criminal case," he told the judge.
The prosecutor showed the defendants a photo that he said showed some of the students having sex as part of the course.
Kirillov's response was that the photos were "private" and taken after the seminar, when a group of students went to a bar in Pattaya to put their lessons to the test.
Kaweewit Kaewjinda, The Associated Press