Russian-born photographer Vladimir Morozov, a resident of Wexford for the past 20 years, said he is “ashamed and outraged” by the invasion of Ukraine and could never have imagined it would ever happen.
"I cannot believe it has ended up like this. I never thought Russia would actually invade Ukraine. I thought maybe they would capture the Donbas territory but to go full on., it goes against all normal thinking. Russia and Ukraine are brother nations. But I don’t think they will be anymore after this. It’s a major blow.”
Vladimir settled in Wexford with his wife Inna over two decades ago and the couple have a 21-year daughter Valerie, who is studying production design in Dublin.
The son of former Russian army officer, the late Genadi Morozov, he was born in Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Lenin, and grew up in the town of Tiraspol in Moldova, which was part of the former Soviet Union. His mother Elza lives in Moldova while his brother Sergei is in Moscow.
"I know everything about the Russian army. I grew up in it. My father did his time in Afghanistan, another useless war.”
Vladimir, who works in a dental lab in Wexford, while also running his own outdoor photography and videography business, said he has been anti-Putin for a long time now “since he did his swap for the presidency with Medvedev. Since that, he is not legitimate in my eye. He is a usurper.
"I knew he would not end up in a good way but I never thought it would end up with the occupation of Ukraine and knowing Putin, it’s very hard to see him backing down. The minute he backs down, he will be finished by his own. He can’t show weakness. He has put himself in an impossible position.”
Vladimir, who has Ukrainian friends in Wexford, said the problem is that Putin has the support of 50% of the Russian population. “There is a huge amount of people who support him. He plays on nostalgic feelings of Russia being badly treated by the world.
“My brother would be on the same page as me but many of the older generation, who grew up in the Soviet Union, like my mother and my mother-in-law, they would be among his core supporters.
"There is a little bit of truth in the feeling of Russia being hard-done by. I think the West could have done better. They lost the moment after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They didn’t bring Russia in fast enough. People remember that as a very hard time. The economy was in bits and people lost their jobs. The Putin came along and he played on that. Like Trump, he was going to make Russia great again.
“The division in terms of support for Putin, is right down the middle of families. A lot of families are divided now, since the war in Crimea in 2014. That’s when the rift happened in families.”
Last weekend, Vladimir and Inna made up a large box of supplies, including blow-up mattresses, nappies and first aid items for displaced Ukrainians, in response to an appeal by a courier company that delivers goods to Poland, and brought it to a collection point in Adamstown.
"I did it because I am ashamed and outraged. Ukraine is independent for 30 years now. It’s just such a blow to Russia. I don’t see how Russians can ever recover from this. It’s a major blow because they are seen like Nazis now. For a country that was so proud of defeating the Nazis all those years ago. We have swapped places. It’s unbelievable. The whole situation is just crazy.”
"The whole morality is that Ukraine is on the right side. The aggressor will always be the aggressor no matter how they disguise it.
Vladimir supports the sweeping economic and diplomatic sanctions being imposed on Russia by the EU, US and UK but says they will in time prove to be “crippling and absolutely devastating”, especially the sanctions against its banking system.
"Squeeze him economically. I think that will be effective. Putin accumulated 700 billion dollars – that belonged to the Central Bank of Russia and it has been frozen at the moment. They can’t access it. It will throw Russia back years. The country will be like Iran.”
Vladimir believes that Putin “massively misjudged” how the world would react. "I also think in his mind he believed he would be welcomed in Ukrainian towns. He believes he is liberating Ukraine from this ultra-right, nationalist, anti-Russian gang.
"Many areas of Ukraine are Russian-speaking, especially as you go closer to the border but they don’t identify themselves as Russian anymore. He thought his armies would be welcomed in these town buts nobody welcomed them. Every town is fighting against him. The women are making Molotov cocktails. I think it has been a major mistake.
"Belarus now is almost part of Russia, they have lost their sovereignty and he wants to do the same to Ukraine, to create a three-state Slavic Russian empire.
"He took Crimea and the world did nothing about it and he got away with it. If you get away with something you will do it again.
"He is a man on a mission, who believes Russia was badly treated, is not seen as an equal partner and the west is closing in, more countries are joining NATO, they are getting closer and closer and if I don’t do it now, tomorrow will be too late. It’s a prevention war in his mind.
“People say he is a psychopath but I don’t believe he is. He planned this for years. If you look back over the past 20 years, he has been meticulous. Everything is very logical. He has shown that. The military ideology, everything in Russia is about power and armies. Army is everything. It’s very logical that he ended up like this.
"Opposition is destroyed, free press is destroyed, everything is shut down and shut up. That’s why he tried to poison Alexei Navalny (the imprisoned Russian lawyer) because he didn’t want this very influential opposition leader to be free and alive when he he was dealing with Ukraine.
"If Navalny was at large now, he would be creating a lot of fuss and he would have the power to bring a lot of people out on the street. You see how vengeful Putin is. He won’t let you get away with anything. He will try to get you, no matter what..
"Even now, people who go out on the street with a little piece of paper that just says “No War” are being beaten for it. For anyone who is democratically-minded and free-spirited, it is an absolute nightmare.
"You can’t use the word war in a newspaper. You have to call it ‘special operations’. If you say war you will get massive penalties and fines. I feel bad for the poor Russian soldiers who are dying for nothing, for a war they didn’t want. Another thing is that they don’t announce casualty figures so mothers don’t know if their sons are dead or alive at the moment.”
"But there is resistance. On a website called change.org, there is an anti-war petition for people in Russia and in four days, one million people signed up. That is huge.”
He listens to Russian opposition radio – a small element of opposition still exists. “He killed of 97% of the opposition and left 3%. I think that is deliberate, because then they know where the opposition are and what they are doing, KGB-style.
"Putin is hugely sensitive to public opinion. He lives by opinion polls. The west will never influence him, he doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks but he cares very deeply about what the Russian people think. If he sees that his own people are turning against him because of this war, that is the only thing that will stop the war. If he believes Russian people don’t support him anymore, he will back down.”
Vladimir said the television and propaganda are currently winning in Russia. ”The TV is winning. We have to wait until the fridge wins. When people open the fridge and see that there is nothing there. We have to wait until the time when the fridge wins and then they will all come onto the streets in their millions and when that happens, Putin will be finished.
"I’m trying to look at it with some positivity. I think there is a chance of some sort of revolution. I think Russia will be better after it all.”
"I think that after this whole catastrophe, Russia will not come out of it in one piece, as one country, in the end. I think there will be a seismic civil war or some seismic shift in Russian society. I think it will not survive as one country after this. I have a feeling about that, because there are so many things bottled up, so many conflicts, so many sleeping nightmares, so many regions that were subdued. It’s in moments like this that unpredictable things happen.”
Vladimir who last travelled to Moldova last November with his wife, said he he feels a a little bit like how “good Germans” must have felt in 1939.
"The Ukrainian people who know me know my position for a long time, that I am strongly anti-Putin. I just hate him, I have all my life. It’s like Russia lost 20 years of its history because of him. He put a hand-brake on the country.
"We could have been such a big part of Europe now. Russia is a rich country. I learned only yesterday that Europe pays Russia €5 billion every week for gas and oil. The wealth is unimaginable yet 90% of people live very poor lives. The corruption is just beyond.
"The only thing that will stop him is if Europe cuts its dependence on Russia’s gas and oil. That is his Achilles heel. He would be finished then.”
“Stop the gas and oil, get it somewhere else, even temporarily for a year or two. We have been talking about gas dependence for 10 years and nothing has been done.”
Vladimir said he is very upset for his family and friends and all those who will suffer “horrific consequences” from this war.
"Putin has denied children a future now in Russia. It’s upsetting because the ramifications will live on for a very long time. I think being Russian will not be very popular. A lot of people will be shy to say where they are from.
"I truly hope that it will be over sooner than we think. I think Putin’s days are finished. He has already lost this war. What he was looking for was Blitzkrieg but that didn’t happen.”