United Nations Caves to Russia, Won't Let Staff Refer to Ukraine 'Invasion' or 'War'

Ukrainian servicemen / Getty Images
March 8, 2022

The United Nations has warned its staff against referring to Russia's incursion into Ukraine as an "invasion" or a "war," the Irish Times reported on Tuesday.

The international organization, of which Russia is a member state, has advised that employees use the terms "conflict" or "military offensive" when referring to the invasion of Ukraine. It has also banned staff from posting the Ukrainian flag on their social media profiles. The United Nations' language mirrors the Kremlin's, which has referred to the invasion as a "special military operation."

Russia is one of five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and a U.N. founding member. In its email to staff, the organization said its senior officials believe using the words "invasion" or "war" would put the organization at "reputational risk."

"This is an important reminder that we, as international civil servants, have a responsibility to be impartial," the email read. "There is a serious possibility of reputational risk that has been flagged by senior officials recently."

A U.N. spokesman told the Irish Times that it was not "official policy" but did not "dispute the validity of that email."

After Russia launched the invasion on Feb. 24, the Kremlin ordered news outlets to remove the words "assault," "invasion," or "declaration of war" from their reporting. Days later, the Russian government passed a law that threatened up to 15 years of imprisonment for any outlet that spreads "fake" news about the invasion.