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UN clarifies position on describing Russia action in Ukraine as war,invasion

UN denies it asked staff to avoid describing Russia action in Ukraine as war, invasion



The United Nations (U.N.) is denying that it asked employees to avoid using the words “invasion” and “war” to describe Russia’s military action in Ukraine.

“There is a mistaken impression that UN staff were told to avoid using certain words to describe the situation in Ukraine,” a U.N. spokesperson told The Hill in a series of emails.

“It is simply not the case that staff have been instructed not to use words like ‘war’ and ‘invasion’ to describe the situation,” the spokesperson added, noting that Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, the head of political affairs, herself described it as an invasion in a tweet on Monday.

The Irish Times on Tuesday reported that a leaked internal email from the U.N.’s Department of Global Communication advised employees to avoid using the terms “war” and “invasion.”

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That email offered guidance on “some specific examples of language to use/not use at the moment.” It said that employees should use the words conflict or military offensive and not war or invasion when referring to the situation in Ukraine.

U.N. staff were also reportedly told, “Do NOT add the Ukrainian flag to personal or official social media accounts or websites,” which many across the globe have done in a move of solidarity with Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

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

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Screenshots of the email were shared in full on Twitter by Irish Times journalist Naomi O’Leary. It also told staff to “please note we are waiting for updated guidance on specific terminology following the General Assembly resolution, which uses the word ‘aggression.’”


The U.N. spokesperson said all U.N. staff are “international civil servants, and uphold the responsibilities that that position entails.”

“Accordingly, staff are asked to frame any communications on Ukraine as well as other political matters in a manner that is consistent with the position of the Organization and the statements of the Secretary-General. This applies not only to the on-going situation in Ukraine but other situations around the world,” the spokesperson said.

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The U.N.’s reported instruction to staff on terminology comes after the Russian parliament on Friday banned “fake news” from journalists about the ongoing war.


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