Sex, Lies, And Instagram:
Russia's 'Rybkagate' Rolls On
February 12, 2018
As Russian scandals involving sex, billionaires, politicians,
and talkative alleged ex-lovers go, this is a crazy one. And
it's only getting weirder.
Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's exposť this week of
a meeting between Kremlin-connected billionaire Oleg Deripaska
and a top official on a yacht has already triggered a warning of
legal action, as well as a rape allegation -- subsequently
retracted as a joke -- by a woman who claims to have been the
Deripaska said in a February 9 statement that he would
vigorously fight "any attempts to create and disseminate false
information," vowing to use "all legal measures" and defend his
"honor and dignity in court."
His statement came a day after opposition Navalny's salacious
exposť of a meeting between Deripaska and Russian Deputy Prime
Minister Sergei Prikhodko aboard the tycoon's yacht in the
waters off Norway.
Navalny alleges that Deripaska's lavish reception of Prikhodko
-- which was documented by video footage posted on social media
and appears to have occurred in August 2016 -- constitutes
bribery of a senior official.
In his statement, Deripaska denied committing any "unlawful
actions" and warned media outlets not to disseminate "these
Deripaska's statement did not specify which accusations he was
referring to or deny that that he met with Prikhodko on the
Prikhodko, a former top foreign-policy adviser to Russian
President Vladimir Putin, suggested to the newspaper RBK that he
would like to fight with Navalny, but he didn't address the
allegations in the exposť.
"By all accounts, this deserves a man-to-man response, but we
will remain on the legal field," RBK quoted him as saying. "This
political loser has yet again tried to spur a provocation and
remind [the world] about himself, by chaotically mixing up the
possible with the impossible -- from my friend, to the American
President Trump, to Manafort, whom I personally don't know."
He suggested that Deripaska was likely to sue Navalny.
Asked if he would comment on the matter, Kremlin spokesman
Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-run TASS news agency as
saying, "No, I couldn't, and wouldn't want to do that."
'How To Seduce A Billionaire'
The scandal echoes the 1990s information wars between powerful
Russian political players in which kompromat -- or compromising
materials -- was frequently deployed to discredit and undermine
Some have likened it to the sex-tape scandal that led to the
ouster of Russian Prosecutor-General Yury Skuratov in 1999.
It has also has left many political watchers in Russia
scratching their heads, particularly about the role and
motivation of the young woman who posted the video footage at
the center of Navalny's expose.
The Belarusian woman, who goes by the name Nastya Rybka, claims
to have carried on an affair with Deripaska.
Her Instagram account features a photo of the two together on
Deripaska's yacht. She also posted audio in which Deripaska and
Prikhodko appear to be discussing U.S.-Russian relations, though
it was not possible to conclusively verify that they are the two
Rybka is a close associate of a Belarus-born man who goes by the
name Alex Lesley and who describes himself as a "sex guru" who
teaches classes for men on seducing women.
Lesley, who was profiled in the British media last year over his
purported plan to challenge President Vladimir Putin for the
Kremlin, is seen in photographs on Rybka's Instagram account
cavorting with her and other young women in locations all over
Navalny says he and his team discovered Rybka's social-media
posts by chance after looking into a September stunt in which
several of her scantily clad associates entered his Moscow
Video footage shows the young women being accompanied by a
regional lawmaker from Putin's ruling United Russia party who
had previously been associated with Lesley's seduction classes.
After Navalny published the investigation, Rybka took to
Instagram to thank the politician for the attention.
She then claimed in a subsequent post that she had been
gang-raped on Deripaska's yacht. In yet another post, she
claimed on February 9 that the rape allegation was a joke.
Her social-media posts featuring Deripaska remained accessible
on February 9.
Rybka is also the listed author of a book published last year
titled Diary On How To Seduce A Billionaire that, according to
Navalny's investigation, appears to reference the yacht ride
with Deripaska and Prikhodko -- though it does not give their
Russian journalist and political commentator Oleg Kashin wrote
in a February 9 column that Rybka's behavior was "the most
inexplicable aspect" of the scandal.
"Who and in what way guaranteed the safety of the young woman?
Why did no one stop her at the very start of her media
activities?" Kashin wrote for the Russian news site Republic.ru.
'Wall Of Silence'
Major Russian newspapers avoided reporting on Navalny's
investigation in their February 9 editions in what Navalny
called a "wall of silence" that is "unusual even for us."
we, believe me, know everything about media censorship," added
Navalny, a leading Kremlin foe who is barred from running in the
March 18 presidential election due to a criminal conviction he
calls politically motivated.
His investigation was quickly reported by independent-minded
radio stations and news sites, and prominent Russian newspapers
and news agencies picked up on the story following Deripaska's
statement on February 9.
Deripaska previously did business with Paul Manafort, the former
campaign manager of U.S. President Donald Trump who has been
indicted in the United States on money laundering, conspiracy,
and other charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Last year he filed a lawsuit against the Associated Press in
U.S. federal court, claiming the news agency defamed and libeled
him with its report on his business ties to Manafort, with whom
the Russian tycoon had formed a joint venture to invest in
Ukraine that later fell apart.
A U.S. judge in October dismissed the lawsuit, saying Deripaska
had not disputed "any material facts" in the AP story.