- Ukrainian officials have asked two Internet organizations to remove Russian domains and remove Russian root servers.
- They say the spread of Russian propaganda and misinformation is leading to “terrible crimes” against Ukraine.
- Internet experts do not support Ukraine’s proposals, saying they could harm civilians more.
On Monday, Ukraine made an official appeal to two international bodies responsible for managing Internet resources to expel Russia from the Internet.
Two Ukrainian officials emailed representatives of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Center (RIPE NCC), asking them to do their part in preventing Russia from spreading the propaganda.
“I am sending you this letter on behalf of the people of Ukraine, asking you to address the urgent need for severe sanctions against the Russian Federation in the field of DNS regulation, in response to its aggressive actions towards Ukraine and its citizens,” Andrii Nabok, representing Ukraine at ICANN, wrote in an email signed by Vice Ukrainian Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mikhailo Fedorov.“DNS” stands for Domain Name System, a naming technique that identifies computers and other resources that can be accessed over the Internet.
The email sent by Nabok and Fedorov wrote that Russia is pressuring propaganda with the aim of misleading, spreading hate speech and promoting violence. They added that Russia is hiding the truth about the war in Ukraine and has attacked Ukraine’s IT infrastructure, affecting the ability of the affected Ukrainian citizens and the government to communicate.
These measures allowed for “atrocious crimes,” including those targeting Ukrainian civilians, to take place, according to the email.
Nabok and Fedorov recommended a list of sanctions that restrict Russia’s access to the Internet. They asked ICANN to cancel the “.ru”, “.рф” and “.su” domains, and shut down the root servers in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. They also asked RIPE NCC, which operates the regional Internet registry in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, to remove the Russian root servers.
“I ask you to kindly consider such measures and implement them as soon as possible. Help save the lives of people in our country,” Fedorov wrote.
RIPE NCC and ICANN denied Ukraine’s applications. RIPE NCC responded on Monday that “the means of communication should not be affected by local political disputes, international conflicts or wars.”
ICANN said it is unable to separate any domain on demand, as that would “undermine confidence in the multi-stakeholder model and policies designed to preserve the global interoperability of the Internet,” President and CEO Göran Marby wrote in a response Wednesday.
“ICANN is ready to continue to support Ukrainian and global Internet security, stability and resiliency,” Marby said.
The request was met with opposition from experts
Despite Ukraine’s request, some experts have warned 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 infrastructure for the Internet. at Tweet threadWoodcock explained that removing Russia from the Internet would create a host of problems, including that Russian websites and email could be inaccessible from outside the country. It can also happen to some users within Russia.
Woodcock writes that shutting down root servers will make it more difficult for Russians to have a good Internet connection – which will affect civilians more than government or military users.
Insider reports that Russia took itself off the internet in June and July to test its defenses against cyberwarfare.
Woodcock wrote that Ukraine’s proposals would put Russian civilian internet users at greater risk from man-in-the-middle attacks, such as those used to hack bank credentials and website passwords. They will also be isolated from foreign news and viewpoints.
In the long run, such a move could pave the way for industry associations to take part in international disputes by interfering in a country’s private Internet space, Woodcock said.
“Russia is doing a lot of bad things right now, and punishment is part of what happens to people who choose to fight. But that’s not the thing to do,” he wrote.
The former President and CEO of ICANN, Paul Toomey, agreed that: Writing on Twitter: “Keeping the protocol layer operational in Russia is the best way to ensure the effectiveness of sites with diverse views for Russian audiences.”
Western countries have already taken a series of steps to isolate Russia from the international community, including economic and financial sanctions, and to prevent Russia from entering their airspace.