Ukraine Is Trying To Get Russia Removed From the Internet, Saying Russia Has Been Pushing Out Propaganda With the Aim to Disinform and Promote Violence
By Weilun Soon
– Ukrainian officials have asked two internet organizations to remove Russian domains and take down Russian root servers.
– They say Russia’s spread of propaganda and misinformation is resulting in “atrocious crimes” against Ukraine.
On Monday, Ukraine made an official plea to two international bodies in charge of managing internet resources to kick Russia off the internet.
Two Ukrainian officials emailed representatives of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), asking them to do their part in stopping Russia from spreading propaganda.
“I’m sending you this letter on behalf of the people of Ukraine, asking you to address an urgent need to introduce strict sanctions against the Russian Federation in the field of DNS regulation, in response to its acts of aggression towards Ukraine and its citizens,” wrote Andrii Nabok, who represents Ukraine at ICANN, in an email that was signed off by Ukraine’s deputy prime minister and digital transformation minister, Mykhailo Fedorov. “DNS” refers to domain name system, a naming approach that identifies computers and other resources that can be accessed via the internet.
Russia has been pushing out propaganda with the aim to disinform, spread hate speech, and promote violence, the email by Nabok and Fedorov wrote. Russia is hiding the truth about the war in Ukraine and has attacked Ukraine’s IT infrastructure, affecting affected Ukrainian citizens’ and government’s ability to communicate, they added.
These actions have allowed “atrocious crimes” to happen, including those targeting Ukrainian civilians, per the email.
Nabok and Fedorov recommended a list of sanctions that restrict Russia’s access to the internet. They asked ICANN to revoke the domains “.ru”, “.рф” and “.su”, and shut down root servers in Moscow and St. Petersburg. They also requested that RIPE NCC, which manages the regional registry for the internet in Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia, remove Russia’s root servers.
“I ask you kindly to seriously consider such measures and implement them as quickly as possible. Help to save the lives of people in our country,” Fedorov wrote.
RIPE NCC has rejected Ukraine’s suggestions. It responded on Monday that “the means to communicate should not be affected by domestic political disputes, international conflicts or war.”
ICANN has not publicly responded to Ukraine’s request. The organization did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The request is being met with opposition from experts
Despite Ukraine’s request, some experts have cautioned against removing Russia from the internet.
Bill Woodcock is the executive director of Packet Clearing House, an international non-governmental organization that builds and supports critical internet infrastructure. In a series of tweets, Woodcock explained that kicking Russia off the internet would create a host of issues, including that Russian websites and emails may be inaccessible from outside of the country. It could also happen for some users inside Russia.
Shutting down root servers would make it hard for Russians to have good connection to the internet, Woodcock wrote — which would affect civilians more than government or military users.
Russia removed itself from the internet in June and July to test its defenses against cyber warfare, Insider reported.
Ukraine’s suggestions would expose Russian civilian internet users to a higher risk of man-in-the-middle attacks, such as those used to compromise banking credentials and website passwords, Woodcock wrote. They would also be cut off from foreign news and perspectives.
In the long term, such a move could pave the way for industry associations to be involved in international disputes by meddling with a country’s internet domain, Woodcock said.
“Russia is doing many bad things at the moment, and retribution is part of what happens to people who pick fights. But this is not the thing to do,” he wrote.
The former president and CEO of ICANN, Paul Twomey, agreed, writing on Twitter: “Keeping the protocol layer operating in Russia is the best way to ensure that sites carrying diverse views to Russian audiences are effective.”
Western countries have already taken a series of steps to alienate Russia from the global community, including economic and financial sanctions, and prohibiting Russia from entering their airspaces.