Ukraine Asks ICANN To Remove Russian Domains


Digital fightback by Ukraine sees official letter to internet domain body ICANN, requesting removal of Russian domains from global web

Ukraine continues its effective campaign of asking for assistance from international technology players, to aid its defence against Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov sent a letter to Göran Marby, CEO of ICANN, the global internet domain non-profit in charge of domain names, in which Fedorov the body to remove Russian domains from the internet.

The request is certainly ambitious, but is unlikely to be acted upon by the neutral ICANN platform, as it could result in five million domains being blocked from the global Internet.

Internet domain names © Dusit beboy Shutterstock 2012

Domain removals

In his letter, Ukraine’s Fedorov pointed out that Russia’s “atrocious crimes have been made possible mainly due to Russian propaganda machinery using websites continuously spreading disinformation, hate speech, promoting violence and hiding the truth regarding the war in Ukraine.”

“Therefore I strongly asking you to introduce the following list of sanctions targetting Russian Federation’s access to the Internet.

  1. Revoke, permanently or temporarily, the domains “.ru”, “.рф”, and “.su”. This list is not exhaustive may also include other domains issued in the Russian Federation.
  2. Contribute to the revoking for SSL certificates for the above mentioned domains.
  3. Shut down DNS root servers serving the Russian Federation, namely Saint Petersburg, RU and Moscow, RU.”

“All these measures will help users seek for reliable information in alternative domain zones, prevent propaganda and disinformation,” Fedorov wrote. “I kindly ask you to seriously consider such measures and implement them quickly as possible.”

ICANN confirmed Tuesday that it received Fedorov’s letter from the Ukrainian government, CNBC reported.

“We can confirm that we’ve received the letter and are reviewing it,” said spokeswoman Angelina Lopez. “We have no further comment at this time.”

Unprecedented request

Ukraine’s request is extraordinary considering the neutral and independent status of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

In September 2009 the United States loosened its hold on ICANN, signing a permanent agreement giving the international global community and the private sector more control over the Internet’s global domain naming system.

It is therefore highly unlikely Ukraine’s request would be granted.

If it was, it would block about five million domains from the global internet, and would significantly affect Russia’s ability to communicate online.

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But it would also likely trigger a break up of the Internet as we know it, with a likely Chinese and also Russian Internet.

ICANN’s position will likely to remain neutral, but will allow individual governments and nation states to implement their own blocking of traffic coming from a particular state.

It should be remembered that Russia has also passed a number of restrictive laws governing the online world, not least of which was its so called ‘Sovereign Internet’ law that enables Russia to be cut off from the global Internet.

And since March 2021, the Russian government has used deep-packet inspection (DPI) technology to slowdown users’ access to Twitter on mobile devices.