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Ukraine asks ICANN to delete all Russian domains

Plus: Namecheap tells customers in Russia they are no longer welcome, citing 'war crimes'

Updated In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last week, Mykhailo Fedorov, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, on Monday asked the head of DNS overlord ICANN to disable country code top-level domains associated with Russia.

In an email [PDF], Fedorov asked Göran Marby, CEO of ICANN, to impose sanctions on Russia, arguing that the Putin regime has used internet infrastructure to propagandize its war effort.

Specifically, he has asked for the revocation of domains “.ru”, “.рф”, “.su”, and others used by the Russian Federation, shutting down DNS root servers serving the Russian Federation, and contributing to the revocation of associated TLS/SSL certificates for those domains.

"All of these measures will help users seek for reliable information in alternative domain zones, preventing propaganda and disinformation," Fedorov's email says.

"Leaders, governments and organizations all over the world are in favor of introducing sanctions towards the Russian Federation since they aim at putting the aggression towards Ukraine and other countries to an end. 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."

Doing so would block about five million domains from the global internet, and would significantly affect Russia's ability to communicate online.

Fedorov's message was posted to an ICANN mailing list by Oksana Prykhodko, who said she's a member of civil society in Ukraine and is enduring a sixth day of bombing in Kyiv.

Andrii Nabok, the Ukrainian representative of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee and head of broadband for the country's Ministry of Digital Transformation, emailed a copy of the message to Marby and other ICANN officials. The message was also posted to Pastebin.

In response to Prykhodko, Erich Schweighofer, a professor at the University of Vienna and ICANN community participant, wrote:

ICANN is a neutral platform, not taking a position in this conflict but allowing States to act accordingly, e.g. blocking all traffic from a particular state

The professor continued: "We know and we are aware of the very difficult and dangerous situation. [The] EU will support you. However, removing Russia from the internet does not help supporting the civil society in this country for a democratic change. ICANN is a neutral platform, not taking a position in this conflict but allowing States to act accordingly, e.g. blocking all traffic from a particular state."

That sentiment was confirmed on Tuesday when the RIPE Network Coordination Center, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia – one of five RIRs that oversee Internet resource allocations – rejected Fedorov's request to take down the Russian internet.

"It is crucial that the RIPE NCC remains neutral and does not take positions with regard to domestic political disputes, international conflicts or war," wrote Christian Kaufmann, chairman of the RIPE NCC executive board.

Not everyone shares that view. Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Top Level Domain Holdings, expressed support for Prykhodko's plea in a mailing list reply.

"Neutrality as a response to murder is not neutral," he wrote. "What is the use of 'civil society' organizations if they won’t even speak up in support [to] protect civil society, much less do anything about it?

"Even politicians have woken up. Even the German government has woken up," he said. "Even the Swiss government has woken up! Meanwhile some people at ICANN are content to repeat empty phrases about not getting involved because it doesn’t help civil society in their country. So much for 'one world, one internet.'"

ICANN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Namecheap offers qualified Ukrainian support

Meanwhile, domain registrar Namecheap has sided with Ukraine, and advised customers in Russia to take their business elsewhere, citing war crimes.

On Monday, the company sent out an email to Russia-based customers that began, "Unfortunately, due to the Russian regime's war crimes and human rights violations in Ukraine, we will no longer be providing services to users registered in Russia.

"While we sympathize that this war may not affect your own views or opinion on the matter, the fact is, your authoritarian government is committing human rights abuses and engaging in war crimes so this is a policy decision we have made and will stand by."

Richard Kirkendall, Namecheap's CEO, subsequently posted a clarification to Hacker News.

"We haven't blocked the domains, we are asking people to move," he wrote. "There are plenty of other choices out there when it comes to infrastructure services so this isn't 'deplatforming.' I sympathize with people that are not pro regime but ultimately even those tax dollars they may generate go to the regime."

"We have people on the ground in Ukraine being bombarded now non-stop. I cannot with good conscience continue to support the Russian regime in any way, shape or form. People that are getting angry need to point that at the cause, their own government. If more grace time is necessary for some to move, we will provide it. Free speech is one thing but this decision is more about a government that is committing war crimes against innocent people that we want nothing to do with."

A spokesperson for Namecheap confirmed to The Register that Kirkendall did make that post and said the company on Tuesday had emailed an update to customers that outlined exceptions to its policy.

Namecheap Russia policy update:

We would like to make a correction to our policy of terminating services to customers in Russia — announced yesterday.

Firstly, we will make exceptions for all anti-regime media, protest resources, and any type of websites that are helping to end this war and regime — we will continue to welcome you using our services. Please accept our apologies for any disruption this caused, and we thank you for helping to fight against this tyranny.

The above also applies if you are no longer a resident of Russia and do not support the regime in any way.

Extending original termination date

For those who will still be affected by our decision to terminate Namecheap services to Russia, we are extending the termination date to three weeks from today. Please make sure you have moved your services to another provider by March 22, 2022.

If there are legitimate reasons that you may need more time, we will make exceptions if they are deemed reasonable.

The domain biz thanked customers for their "understanding." ®

Updated to add

ICANN has rebuffed Ukraine's request.

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