By Matthew Chance, Darya Tarasova and Nathan Hodge, CNN
Updated: Tue, 29 Jan 2019 14:28:45 GMT
A Belarusian model who claimed to have information on Moscow's attempts to interfere in US elections told CNN she had been ordered by Russian security agents to keep silent about her dealings with a Russian billionaire linked to the former chairman of Donald Trump's campaign.
Anastasia Vashukevich, a self-styled "sex coach," made international headlines after she was arrested in Thailand last year and claimed to have obtained secret recordings during an affair with oligarch Olig Deripaska which allegedly shed light on US President Donald Trump's links to Russia.
In an exclusive interview with CNN on Tuesday, Vashukevich said she was instructed by Russian security services not to talk about Deripaska, an ex-business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
"I had some talk when I was in Russian jail," she said. "And they explained to me very clear(ly) what should I do, what should I say and what I shouldn't say."
Asked who explained that to her, Vashukevich said "Russian agents," adding, "They said to me, 'Don't touch Oleg Deripaska anymore.'"
The model, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka on social media, was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport earlier this month on prostitution allegations after being deported from Thailand, where she had spent nearly a year behind bars for soliciting. She was freed from police custody last week.
Claims made to 'save my life'
She told CNN from a Thai detention center last year that she witnessed meetings between Deripaska and at least three unnamed Americans. Now back in Moscow, she says the claims she made to the media were an attempt to get media attention to save her life.
Asked if she regretted making those claims about the evidence she had, Vashukevich said, "I think it saved my life, how can I regret it? If journalists had not come at that time and that story had not come to the newspapers, maybe I would die [be dead by] now."
Deripaska denies any affair with Vashukevich, but he remains a subject of major political interest in US political circles. Trump has denied claims that his campaign colluded with Russians.
Vashukevich apologized to Deripaska for hurting his reputation during a court appearance in Moscow prior to her release.
Deripaska was back in the spotlight this weekend, after the Trump administration's Treasury Department formally lifted sanctions on three Russian firms with links to the billionaire, including Rusal, the world's second-largest aluminum producer.
In her interview with CNN, Vashukevich described her year in a Thai prison as "hell," and said she had contemplated suicide if she was handed a lengthy sentence.
"It's like a blockbuster and I'm inside," she said. "But it's not a movie, it's my life."