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US teacher faked being an Irishman to escape Russian-occupied Ukraine

Timothy Morales told Russian secret police that he was an Irishman named Timothy Joseph who had lost his passport.

Two Ukrainian defence forces members stand next to a sign reading "Kherson region" in the outskirts of Kherson, southern Ukraine, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. The retaking of Kherson was one of Ukraine's biggest successes in the nearly nine months since Moscow's invasion. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)© AP/PA Images

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

An American teacher has told the bizarre story of how he posed as an Irishman to evade secret police while hiding out in occupied Ukraine for eight months.

Timothy Morales (56) was worried how Russian forces would treat an American, so began an elaborate plan to hide-out in Kherson, the fist major city to fall when the invasion began in February.

He stayed indoors, walking between his and his ex-wife’s apartment, he told The New York Times.

Morales attempted to escape once, along a motorway leading north but turned back when he saw tanks firing on the road.

He managed to send his 10-year-old daughter and ex-wife to safety, but had to return to his the hide-out alone.

After months of hiding, the Russian secret police, the FSB – the successor agency of the KGB – turned up at his door.

In awkward Russian, he told them he was an Irishman named Timothy Joseph who had lost his passport.

The fake Irishman only escaped, he said, because the Russian officers “weren’t the cleverest people in the world.”

A neighbour even vouched for him and his Irishness.

He passed the time watching movies he had downloaded onto his laptop before the invasion, though remained worried about his American identity being unveiled.

As the US supplies weapons and other support to Ukraine, the country has been dubbed another enemy of Russia in the conflict.

The city of Kherson was liberated last week by Ukrainian forces, allowing Timothy to re-emerge from his hiding spot and make his plans to come home.

"I need to put some space between myself and what happened here,” he said.

He told The New York Times that has the months went by, Russian troops became increasingly “scruffier and more hodgepodge.”

Russian attempts to adopt Kherson as part of Putin’s regime failed, despite forcing residents to speak Russian and banning Ukrainian national songs.


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