'I feel guilty to be Russian': Norfolk stately home owner on invasion

Boris Konoshenko is a former Russian newspaper editor now living in north Norfolk. 

Boris Konoshenko is a former Russian newspaper editor now living in north Norfolk. - Credit: Boris Konoshenko

The Russian owner of a Norfolk stately home has told of his anger and devastation over the country’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Boris Konoshenko, who owns Swafield Hall near North Walsham, said he felt “sad, ashamed and angry” after hearing Vladimir Putin’s forces had launched a full-scale assault on the country. 

Mr Konoshenko, 60, said: "I play the organ in our parish church, and this Sunday I don't know how I can look people in the eye. I feel kind of guilty to be Russian."

But Mr Konoshenko said his British friends had stood by him.

A Russian tank at the Ukrainian border. Russia launched a full-on assault on the country on Thursday evening. 

A Russian tank at the Ukrainian border. Russia launched a full-on assault on the country on Thursday evening. - Credit: AP

He said: "Today I received some emails from our friends, who are supporting me, which is very kind. People understand how I'm feeling, but others won't." 

Mr Konoshenko, who was born in St Petersburg in the Soviet era when it was called Leningrad, used to be the editor-in-chief and managing director of Metro, formerly Moscow's most-read newspaper.

But he said the media was becoming more and more controlled by the government, and he emigrated to Britain in 2014, the same year Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.  

He said: "I feel kind of responsible for what is going on now, like I didn't do enough to prevent it. 

Boris Konoshenko, owner of Swafield Hall, on the beach at Mundesley with his dogs. 

Boris Konoshenko, owner of Swafield Hall, on the beach at Mundesley with his dogs. - Credit: Boris Konoshenko

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Mr Konoshenko and his partner Tim Payne bought the 16th Century Swafield Hall, which they restored and now run as holiday accommodation. 

He still has Russian citizenship, but Mr Konoshenko became a UK citizen in 2015 and leads an active life, playing the organ at church services in Mundesley, Trunch and other villages, and organising events such as fetes and concerts.

Swafield Hall in north Norfolk, owned by Boris Konoshenko and Tim Payne.

Swafield Hall in north Norfolk, owned by Boris Konoshenko and Tim Payne. - Credit: Supplied by Boris Konoshenko

He said: "I'm very happy to be part of this country - I'm not living in the past. I used to be proud to be Russian, of Russian culture, music and literature. This represents the Russian soul, not Putin.

"I was hoping for some common sense but now I'm quite pessimistic about what's going to happen."

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a nationally televised question-and-answer session in

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sparked widespread condemnation for sending military forces into Ukraine. - Credit: AP

Mr Konoshenko said his thoughts were on his daughter, Maria, 33, and five-year-old grandson, who were living in Moscow.

He said: "She called me yesterday and she was crying all day. People don't want war and they are very scared. 

"There are some people who are doing this but most of my Russian friends and Ukrainian friends on Facebook are feeling completely horrified."