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A Belarusian woman who claimed to possess insider information about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — and what role President Donald Trump’s campaign played in the disinformation campaign — now admits her story was a hoax.
Anastasia Vashukevich, whom the New York Times described as an “escort,” grabbed headlines last year when she claimed to possess secret audio recordings that she said would prove a link between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.
She said she obtained the recordings while engaging in an affair with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
According to the Times, Vashukevich sought to use the recordings as leverage to free herself from a Thai jail, where she wrote to U.S. officials asking for political asylum in exchange for the alleged evidence.
She, along with nine others, were arrested by Thai officials last year for conducting a sex workshop directed at Russian male tourists.
Earlier this month, Thai officials deported Vashukevich to Russia, where she was arrested on prostitution charges and later released.
Vashukevich revealed to CNN in an interview Tuesday that she made up her story about the recordings to generate media attention, which she believed would save her life.
“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 [be dead by] now,” she said.
Her admission comes only after she said “Russian agents” spoke to her while she was detained in Russia earlier this month. Vashukevich said the agents warned her to stop talking about her relationship with Deripaska.
“I had some talk when I was in Russian jail. And they explained to me very clear what should I do, what should I say and what I shouldn’t say,” she said. “They said to me, ‘Don’t touch Oleg Deripaska anymore.”
Deripaska is known to be a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He also has a past business association with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is currently due to be sentenced to prison after being convicted of fraud, conspiracy against the U.S., and making false statements to investigators.