A Ukrainian playboy who once posed for photos with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Clooney has been accused of organising the naked photo shoot which caused outrage in Dubai.
Vitaliy Grechin, a Kiev-born investor who grew up and worked in the US, has been identified by media in his home country as the man behind the shoot which saw 12 Ukrainian models and a Russian man arrested and scheduled for deportation.
Grechin is believed to be the man seen in an image taken in the same hotel room where a now-notorious balcony photo was taken just moments later.
In it, the man sits at a grand piano while surrounded by 19 naked women – two of whom are models who were identified as taking part in the photo shoot which drew the attention of Dubai police.
Vitaliy Grechin, a Ukrainian investor and playboy, has been accused of organising the now-notorious naked photoshoot in Dubai which caused outrage in the Arab state
Grechin is believed to be the man in this image, taken in the same hotel room where the photo shoot later took place, surrounded by naked models
Some of the same models were then pictured on the balcony of the same hotel room, in an image that prompted Dubai police to arrested 12 people
Sources in Kiev told local news site Strana, one of Ukraine’s biggest news sites, that the man in that image is Grechin.
‘According to our information, [he] was the organiser of the trip itself and the scandalous photo session,’ the site reported.
A trawl of Grechin’s social media reveals that he is no stranger to being surrounded by groups of scantily-clad women while showing off his playboy lifestyle.
Facebook images show him posing with groups of women in bikinis on boats and in nightclubs, while another shows him on a private jet alongside women dressed as flight attendants – two of whom are later pictured in the cockpit wearing lingerie.
Russian source BAZA reported that Grechin had not been detained with the rest of the group in Dubai and got out of Ukraine.
Grechin has not commented on the claims of his involvement in the scandal.
Instagram images from some of the models known to be in the Dubai shot reveal that they also attended a similar event held at a ski resort in Ukraine for Grechin’s birthday back in February.
Marianna Fedchuk and Anastasia Kashuba, both 21, were present at the birthday bash, as was Yana Graboschuk, 27.
Yana posted a photo of herself kissing Grechin along with a caption wishing him a happy birthday.
He also posted an image of the bash online, writing: ‘Wanted to thank all of you for your much awaited birthday wishes.’
Grechin was born in Kyiv but moved aged ten with his parents to America around the time of the fall of the USSR.
He is reported to have degrees in finance and personnel psychology.
There are claims he served in the US army, and that at some point he was posted to the American embassy in Ukraine.
It is unclear if a Russian man detained in connection with the Dubai nudity – IT company head Alexey Kontsov, 33 – is linked to Grechin.
Russian diplomats are known to be giving him consular assistance.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry confirmed that 11 of the women on the Dubai shoot were their citizens.
Grechin was born in Kiev but moved to the US aged 10. He was pictured with then-president Obama in 2011, the same year it is thought he made a donation of $31,000 to Democrats
Grechin was also pictured alongside celebrity A-listers including George Clooney
They were held for ‘violation of the norms of public morality’, as was Kontsov.
Pictures also show Grechin with then President Obama, and records show at least one political donation of $33,100 by a man of his name to his campaign in 2011, when the photograph was taken.
Other pictures show him with former US first lady and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and Hollywood stars George Clooney and Sylvester Stallone.
‘Publicly Grechin in every possible way demonstrates the attributes of ‘expensive life”,’ reported Strana.
‘It is also rumoured that he organises parties for Ukrainian MPs.
‘These parties are traditionally attended by girls from Grechin’s ‘escort suite’.’
The report stated: ‘Grechin’s main distinguishing feature is his manner of surrounding himself with a large number of women of model appearance.
‘Grechin does not hide this, and even, on the contrary, demonstrates in every possible way in social networks.’
Those arrested over the photoshoot, which took place just days before the start of Ramadan, were facing up to six months in prison under the UAE’s strict public decency laws.
But it has since been confirmed that they will be deported from the Arab state.
After an unusually speedy investigation, Dubai’s Attorney General Essam Issa al-Humaidan announced that those behind the photo shoot would be deported to their home countries, without elaborating further.
Dubai police have declined to officially identify those detained. More than a dozen women appeared in the widely shared video – with some named by Russian media.
Some of the same models known to have been posing on the Dubai balcony were also pictured celebrating Grechin’s birthday in Ukraine in February
Grechin posted an image of the gathering on his social media, thanking attendees for their birthday wishes
One woman outed by local media, Marianna Fedchuk, 21, admitted to being in a clothed picture including many women who subsequently stripped for the naked shot – but denied being one of the women on the balcony.
She said she flew back to Kyiv before the photo was taken, she said, as she urged her followers to follow her x-rated social media pages ‘more closely, so you can at least distinguish naked me from the other naked girls’.
Meanwhile, trained lawyer Yana Graboshchuk, 27, was revealed to be among the group detained for the revealing shoot – as her family said they knew where she had flown but had no idea what her purpose was.
She was outed by her distinctive tattoo which matches her social media pictures.
Ukrainian and Russian authorities confirmed the arrest of their citizens Tuesday, but the nationalities of the others detained were not immediately known.
The swift deportation is rare for the legal system in Dubai. Such cases typically go to trial or are otherwise adjudicated before deportation.
‘The public prosecutor ordered the deportation of the accused for their behaviour contrary to public morals,’ al-Humaidan said, adding that the group of women had been charged with violating the country’s public decency law.
Dubai is a top destination for the world’s Instagram influencers and models, who fill their social media feeds with slick bikini-clad selfies from the coastal Emirate’s luxury hotels and artificial islands.
But the city’s brand as a glitzy foreign tourist destination has at times provoked controversy and collided with the sheikhdom’s strict rules governing public behaviour and expression.
The nude photo shoot scandal came just days before Ramadan – the holiest month of the Muslim calendar – and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in nearby Doha, Qatar, for an official state visit.
Over the years, Dubai increasingly has promoted itself as a popular destination for Russians on holiday.
Signs in Cyrillic are a common sight at the city’s major malls.