Russians sought in hotel case

Phuket: Police are tracking down two men thought to be Russians who allegedly took a 23-year-old Russian woman last Friday night to check in at a hotel room in Phuket where she was later discovered injured but alive the next day.

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Phuket Provincial Police commander Ongart Phiewruangnont said the men were captured by the hotel’s closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) when they took Ms Yana Strizheus to check-in at the Blue Garden Resort in tambon Choeng Thale of Thalang district.

They were later identified as Andre Smirnov, aged about 50, and Alexander (surname and age unknown).

Pol Maj Gen Ongart said a maid of the hotel who saw the three at 12.30am last Saturday told investigators they spoke Russian and seemed to know one another.

He said the maid also told investigators that shortly after checking at the hotel one of the two men had left the hotel and she did not know when they departed, leaving Ms Strizheus alone in the hotel room until she was found injured but alive on Sunday night. 

Ms Strizheus and her 39-year-old Russian boyfriend Alexei Slabinskiy, a property businessman, arrived in Phuket on Aug 2, 2013 on student visas.

They were studying Thai at a language school in Phuket. The Russian couple was reported missing since last Thursday after a series of phone calls.

 Investigations found that before they went missing they had made overseas calls to their friends and relatives in Russia, claiming they were involved in a road accident in Phuket and needed US$100,000 (3.2 million baht) to deal with it.

 After the calls, their cell phones went silent. Their relatives in Russia were concerned over their safety and contacted the Russian embassy in Thailand who then contacted tourist police in Phuket. They feared the couple may have been kidnapped.

Pol Maj Gen Ongart, who oversees the investigation, said police are still searching for Mr Slabinskiy and believe the Russian men were probably involved in his disappearance.

He said he asked a Russian relative of Mr Slabinskiy who recently came to Phuket from Russia, to help locate him. Ms Strizheus had called him in Russia and said they had a traffic accident and needed money.

However, investigations found no reports of the Russian couple’s involvement in any accidents.

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