Instagram and YouTube may be blocked in Russia unless videos allegedly showing the Deputy Prime Minister meeting an oligarch with links to Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign on a luxury yacht are removed.
Billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko were reportedly filmed by an escort on Deripaska’s private yacht in 2016, which the Russian opposition claim is evidence of corruption.
A Russian court has now ruled that the videos must be removed from the social media platforms, because they invade Deripaska’s privacy.
Centre of scandal: The videos and photos of Deripaska and Prikhodko on the yacht first emerged on the social media accounts of Anastasiya Vashukevich, a woman working as an escort under the name Nastya Rybka
Censor threats: Billionaire Oleg Deripaska and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko were filmed by an escort who claims to have been hired to spend time with them on Deripaska’s yacht in 2016
The Ust-Labinsk district court in his native Krasnodar region ordered that 14 Instagram posts and seven YouTube videos that ‘breach his right to privacy must be removed, BloombergQuint reports.
Deripaska is a controversial figure who has been linked to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort.
In 2008, he was at the centre of a British political scandal, when it emerged that then-Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, Lord Peter Mandelson and banking heir Nat Rothschild had all spent an evening on his yacht Queen K in Corfu in August.
The videos of Deripaska and Prikhodko first emerged on the social media accounts of Anastasiya Vashukevich, a woman working as an escort under the name Nastya Rybka.
Miss Rybka, who has written a book about working as an escort, claims to have had an affair with Deripaska and says she was hired to spend time on the oligarch’s yacht.
Wild claims: Miss Rybka claims to have had an affair with oligarch Deripaska and says she was hired to spend time on the oligarch’s yacht.
Risky game: Despite a Russian court ordering the videos to be removed – or YouTube and Instagram may be banned in the country – Miss Rybka has refused
Politics lessons: One of the videos allegedly posted on social media which a court has ordered to be removed, Deripaska explains to Miss Rybka why US-Russia relations are so bad
Miss Rybka, originally from Belarus but now based in Dubai, posted several videos in 2016 showing Deripaska on his yacht talking with Deputy Prime minister Prikhodko.
In one snippet, Deripaska explains to Miss Rybka why relations between Russia and the United States are so bad.
After the ruling by the courts, Miss Rybka put it to a vote among her Instagram followers, who, she claims, convinced her not to take down the videos and pictures.
‘The threat of blocking YouTube and Instagram in Russia because of my moves in seducing the oligarch concerns everyone,’ Miss Rybka wrote.
‘It would have been simpler to have met them all and made peace, but Lyosha, Sergey and Oleg are angry and want to fight, like real alpha males.’
She adds that 40 per cent of her followers had voted to remove the videos amd images and 60 per cent had not.
Investigated: A Russian opposition politician quoted public records suggesting that Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, pictured, spent several days on the yacht and was flown there by Deripaska’s private jet
Knack for drama: The young woman, who is originally from Belarus, says she will ‘wait and see’ what happens to Instagram and YouTube as she has refused to delete the photos and videos
Unless the videos are removed voluntarily, either by Rybka, picturedm YouTube, Instagram or Navalny, Russian internet providers may be forced to block the social media platforms
‘I will follow the majority’s opinion, this is now a public affair. At the decision of the majority, I leave everything as is, and we look what will happen next.’
Miss Rybka’s videos and images have also been re-published online as part of an investigation carried out by the leader of the Russian opposition, Alexei Navalny.
Navalny claims that the videos allegedly showing Miss Rybka, Deripaska and Prikhodo, are evidence of government corruption and has refused to take down the videos.
Navalny quoted public records suggesting that Prikhodko spent several days on the yacht and was flown there by Deripaska’s private jet.
A spokesman for Deripaska rejected Navalny’s report, saying: “These scandalous and mendacious assumptions are driven by sensationalism and we totally refute these outrageous false allegations in the strongest possible way.’
Unless the videos are removed voluntarily, either by Rybka, YouTube, Instagram or Navalny, Russian internet providers may be forced to block the social media platforms.
As it is not possible for internet providers to block specific pages on Instagram and YouTube, the entire sites may be blacklisted in Russia, a spokesperson for the Russian Association for Electronic Communications told the BBC.
Who is Oleg Deripaska? The billionaire oligarch with links to with Putin, Lord Mandelson and Trump’s campaign manager
Oleg Deripaska, who is said to be a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is considered one of Russia ‘s wealthiest men.
Born in 1968 in the city of Dzerzhinsk, some 250 miles east of Moscow, Deripaska attended the School of Physics at Moscow State University before graduating from Moscow’s School of Economics at Plekhanov Academy of Economics.
He went on to establish himself in the domestic metals industry and in 2008, Forbes magazine listed Deripaska as the ninth-richest man in the world, worth about $28 billion.
Controversial: Russian oligarch and billionaire Oleg Deripaska has many powerful friends in politics
But when the financial crisis hit he almost went bankrupt before bouncing back – with the help of the Kremlin, according to some reports.
In 2016, Forbes ranked Deripaska as Russia’s 41st wealthiest man.
He hit the headlines in 2017 when he was found to have ties with Paul Manfort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman.
A report claimed $26million was transferred from Oguster Management Ltd – a company owned by Deripaska – to Yiakora Ventures Ltd – entities linked to Manafort.
Manafort denied that any business he did with Deripaska a decade ago was related to helping the Russian government.
Lord Mandelson is also an intimate friend Deripaska, having in 2005 famously joined him in a ‘Banya’ — a traditional sauna in which they were thrashed with bunches of birch twigs by a 25-year-old man, before jumping into freezing water.
Deripaska also hosted Lord Mandelson on his super-yacht, where the pair holidayed alongside Nat Rothschild, then shadow chancellor George Osborne and Tory fund-raiser Andrew Feldman in Corfu in 2008.