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Navalny accuses top Russian official of ties to billionaire

This is a Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 file photo of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny as he poses for photographers prior to a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, eastern France. (Jean-Francois Badias / Associated Press)
This is a Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 file photo of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny as he poses for photographers prior to a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, eastern France. (Jean-Francois Badias / Associated Press)
By Nataliya Vasilyeva Associated Press

MOSCOW – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny published an investigation Thursday alleging that a Russian Cabinet member received lavish hospitality from billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a tycoon who has been linked to U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Navalny’s investigation, published Thursday, draws from the social media account of a woman who claims to have had an affair with Deripaska. The woman, who calls herself Nastya Rybka, has written a book about her work as an escort and said in an interview on Russian television last year that she has been hired by a modeling agency to spend time at Deripaska’s yacht.

Rybka posted several videos in 2016 showing Deripaska on his yacht talking with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. In one snippet, Deripaska explains to the woman why relations between Russia and the United States are so bad.

Navalny quoted public records suggesting that Prikhodko spent several days on the yacht and was flown there by Deripaska’s private jet.

Navalny’s foundation earlier published documents suggesting that Prikhodko, a long-time public servant with no significant private income, owns a luxurious mansion outside Moscow.

Deripaska’s spokesman rejected Navalny’s report.

“These scandalous and mendacious assumptions are driven by sensationalism and we totally refute these outrageous false allegations in the strongest possible way,” he said in an emailed statement, asking to be unnamed in line with the company’s policy.

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