The Revealing Truth

By Shivani Verma

It is no secret that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been looking for proof of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election of the United States. President Trump and has denied the allegations that Russia and the Trump campaign conspired in the 2016 presidential election.[1] Nevertheless, the investigation into suspicions of Russian meddling is moving forward.[2] The investivation includes Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election is and if the foreign officials had interacted with the Trump campaign.[3] Anastasia Vashukevich reached out to the American government via Instagram and offered to help.[4] Vashukevich is a 21-year-old “sex guru.”[5] She claims to have detailed insider knowledge of Russian meddling in the election.[6] She is willing to cooperate with American investigators in exchange for political asylum.[7]

Vashukevich is known on Instagram as Nastya Rybka.[8] She describes herself as a free sex advocate.[9] She was arrested along with Alexander Kirillov in Thailand on February 26, 2018, in the city of Pattaya.[10] Their crime was running “sex-training” sessions[11]. Skulbeda, a 21-year-old participant in the sex training sessions, described Kirillov as a kind of sexual revolutionary, who teaches his followers a belief system of "freedom, sex and love" that revolves around the art of seduction.[12] Vashukevich and Kirillov are currently being held in an immigration detention center in Bangkok.[13] Vashukevich posted a video on her Instagram account asking American journalists for help. Her post stated: "[i]f we go back to Russia we will die in Russian's [sic] prison or they will kill us. This is very serious. ... Please USA help us not to die from Russians!"[14]

What Evidence Could a Sex Guru Have for the American Government?

Vashukevich claims to posses an audio recording and photos of meetings, which will confirm the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election of the United States.[15] Vashukevich says she is the former mistress of Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.[16] Deripaska—who has a longstanding relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin—denies the affair.[17] Vashukevich claims that during her relationship with Deripaska, she gained personal knowledge of several meetings in 2016 and 2017 between Deripaska and at least three un-named Americans.[18] Deripaska also has a business relaitonship with Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman.[19] Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates, were indicated by a grand jury.[20] The charges against Manafort and Gates center on a series of criminal allegations related to their lobbying for a pro-Russia government of Ukraine, not to President Trump or the presidential campaign.[21] Vashukevich has refused to release the evidence or name the Americans in the photographs in case she is deported back to Russia.[22]

Why Should We Believe Her? Let’s Examine The Evidence.

            Vashukevich first came into the public eye after publishing a video on social media.[23] The video depicted a meeting on a private yacht between Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Sergey Prikhodko.[24] In the video, the two men could be heard discussing Russia's poor relationship with the United States.[25] Then, Vashukevich made allegations of an affair in her book "Diary of the Seduction of a Billionaire."[26] The book sold many copies thanks to an investigation by the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.[27] Nevertheless, her assertion could be easily discounted if it were not for a 25-minute video investigation posted on YouTube by Navalny.[28] Navalny’s video was supported by videos and photographs provided by Vashukevich.[29]

Does She Even Have Grounds for Asylum?

In order to be eligible for asylum, an applicant must meet the definition of a refugee as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).[30] The INA’s definition of a refugee is: “Any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality . . . and who is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”[31]

Persecution is not the same as prosecution.[32] Asylum seekers who are prosecuted for committing a crime in their country of origin are typically not granted asylum.[33] This is because granting a criminal asylum may result in one country stepping on another country’s sovereignty and right to prosecute criminals within its borders.[34] Persecution is not defined in any statute.[35] Rather, an immigration judge determines whether the harm suffered by an asylum-seeker rises to the level of persecution on a case-by-case basis.[36]

Treat Others the way you would want to be treated

Both the United States and Russia are signors of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.[37] The Convention states that any person who “has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee,” is not a refugee.[38] However, as you may recall, Russia from granted Edward Snowden asylum in August of 2013.[39] Edward Snowden was deemed a “whistleblower” for releasing classified information about American surveillance programs.[40] Each country party to the Convention has interpreted the definition differently.[41] Russia, who has signed the convention, made the legal and political decision that Snowden fell within the definition of a refugee and granted Snowden temporary asylum in August 2013.[42]

There is a way that Snowden could be considered a member of the persecuted class instead of someone being prosecuted by the government. For this, he must fall under the protected ground of social group. The social group could be government ‘“whistle blowers” or those who expose misconduct, dishonest or illegal activity occurring within the government.”[43] Snowden could potentially have had an asylum claim under political opinion persecution ground.[44] A United States legal case against Snowden would revolve around his treason and leaking of classified information, rather than his beliefs led him to leak the information.[45] Therefore, a claim that Snowden was being persecuted for his political opinion would be weak.[46] Instead, he probably has a better claim for persecution based on his membership in the social group of “whistle blowers.”[47] A similar analysis would apply to Vashukevich’s case if she applies for political asylum in the United States.

 

[1] Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Trump and the Russia Investigation: What to know,  Fox News (Mar. 13, 2018),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] See Ivan Watson & Kocha Olarn, Jailed Russian 'sex coaches' offer to trade election info for US asylum, CNN (Mar. 6, 2018), https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/05/asia/thailand-sex-guru-deportation-russia-intl/index.html.

[5] See Emma Burrows, Russian model in Thai jail promises to spill Trump-Russia secrets, CNN (Mar. 1, 2018), https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/28/asia/russia-model-thai-prison-trump-claims-intl/index.html.

[6] Watson & Olarn, supra note 4.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Richard C. Paddock, Escort Says Audio Recordings Prove Russian Meddling in U.S. Election, NY Times (Mar. 5, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/05/world/asia/nastya-rybka-trump-putin.html.

[14] Burrows, supra note 5.

[15] Watson & Olarn, supra note 4.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Charlie Savage, What It Means: The Indictment of Manafort and Gates, NY Times (Oct. 30, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/us/politics/special-counsel-indictments.html.

[21] Id.

[22] Watson & Olarn, supra note 4.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Paddock, supra note 10.

[29] Id.

[30] INA § 101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A)(2005).

[31] INA § 101(a)(42)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A)(2005).

[32] See Kathleen Tang, Persecution vs. Prosecution: The Question of Snowden, Berkeley J. of Int’l L. Blog (Nov. 16, 2013), http://berkeleytravaux.com/persecution-vs-prosecution-question-snowden/.

[33] Id.

[34] Id.  

[35] http://www.asylumist.com/2015/08/18/what-is-persecution/

[36] See Jason Dzubow, What Is “Persecution”?, The Asylumist (Aug. 18, 2015), http://www.asylumist.com/2015/08/18/what-is-persecution/

[37] Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, July 25, 1951, UNHCR,  http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/basic/3b66c2aa10/convention-protocol-relating-status-refugees.html

[38] Tang, supra note 29.

[39] Id.

[40] Id.

[41] Id.

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Id.

[45] Id.

[46] Id.

[47] Id.