You've likely seen these sad new stories about the Russian model Anastasia Vashukevich who took video of Russian oligarch Oleg Derispaska on board a boat and very publicly claimed she had more that was more damning, some concerning the U.S. presidential election. While I watch the story, I flash back to last February when the terrific conductor/musician Peter Breiner (whose recordings I post every holiday season from his Christmas Goes Baroque albums) sent me the larger video that included them and first brought this part of the story to public attention. That was the electric, long, remarkable exposé video made by Alexei Navalny -- the activist, opposition candidate for president of Russia -- that he recorded from a secure location to uncover crimes of the Putin regime and oligarchs. It contained Vashukevich's footage, along with its hints of ties to the U.S. election.
Heartsick-wrenching and infuriating as this story is on a great many levels, most-especially when you see the Russian police hauling her helpless, terrified body off to prison, I have to admit I can't help thinking as I watch this (and I don't think there's any polite way to say this) how utterly, insanely stupid she was to think that when she was being deported from Turkey to a "safe" country that she could agree to a transfer of planes in Russia because they told her she wouldn't be arrested there. I mean, I'm not a Russian citizen, have never even been there on vacation, and the instant I heard that my head seemed to explode. And this is where she is from and lived her whole life and been surrounded by the culture and politics and secret police. In fact, further, did she not actually remember what was on her own tapes that she said she wanted to bring to the public??!!! What on earth possessed her??? To be clear, she still doesn't remotely deserve even a scintilla of this hell she's now in -- which could end in her "accidental" death or disappearance -- after all, stupidity is not a crime, but my God, what was she thinking??? Assuming "thinking" factored in.
And it's not just a question of "What were you thinking????" in terms of transferring in Russia, but her decision from the first to go public that she had these incriminating tapes and would be willing to make them public. That seemed profoundly risky, though at least on the surface somewhat understandable and even admirable, almost noble. But -- what was the opposite is if you're going to do that...at least, for God's sake, go to an Actually Safe Country with a lawyer and several bodyguards before you start to speak out. Or better still, make a totally anonymous, quiet sale under-the-table. But NOT this. Not at home, "I have these tapes of corruption with Russian oligarchs talking about corruption in Russia and manipulating the U.S. presidential election." And then fly to Turkey -- Turkey!!! -- and be so reckless to get arrested there (of all places) for prostitution. In Turkey. And not on false charges, but by all accounts (since it was one of her businesses) the real thing. Oy. Still, her story and current situation is horribly tragic all around. And I'm sure she's asking herself the same question every moment of every day.
Her one hope is the massive international attention on her plight. And her wailing, prostrate apologies to Deripaska and endlessly-repeated insistence that she really, truly, honestly doesn't actually have any tapes. But even then, if she does get released, one should not take any bets against one day her not disappearing. Perhaps not, perhaps her tearful disclaimers will do the trick. Maybe she'll now be safe, after her hellish ordeal. Here's hoping. Yet even then the question remains -- what on earth was she thinking?????
And yet, when thinking of it all, I just glare at the vote last week when all but 11 Republicans senators voted to overturn the sanctions of Oleg Deripaska. The best I can figure is that many of them have Russian donations and feel compromised too. Or they've already reserved their place in Hell and don't want to muck up the deposit.
This is not about Trump. We know who he is. The is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who have enabled this all.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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