The words “war” and “invasion” are apparently too politically incorrect for the United Nations, which has instructed staff to avoid using those terms in reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Instead, the U.N. communications department would like staff to use terms such as “conflict” or “military offensive” to describe the nearly universally condemned war of aggression waged by Russian President Vladimir Putin against his country’s smaller neighbor. Employees were also asked to refrain from describing the conflict as a war and from adding the Ukrainian flag to their personal or official social media accounts or websites.
“[USE] ‘conflict’ or ‘military offensive’ and NOT ‘war’ or ‘invasion’ when referring to the situation in Ukraine,” an email reported by the Irish Times stated. “Do NOT add the Ukrainian flag to personal or official social media accounts or websites.”
The instructions were given to avoid harming the international body’s reputation by offending Russia, which has killed hundreds of Ukrainian civilians and forced 2 million people to flee the country.
“This is an important reminder that we, as international civil servants, have a responsibility to be impartial,” the email stated. “There is a serious possibility of reputational risk that has been flagged by senior officials recently.”
Teachta Dala Neale Richmond, spokesman on European affairs for Ireland’s Fine Gael party, blasted the “illegal war of aggression” and called on the U.N. to condemn Russia in a statement to the Irish Times.
“The fact is just because Russia is a big country that has an essential role in the UN, they’re influencing policy in a direction that’s simply false,” he said, referring to how Russia holds one of five permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
“Quite clearly this is not just any war, but an illegal war of aggression, that should be condemned from a height by all members of the U.N. and the U.N. itself,” he added.
Russian officials refer to the invasion as a “special military operation,” using Putin’s preferred euphemism for the war. Putin’s government has severely restricted what Russian media outlets are allowed to report about the war with a new law enacted Friday that could put journalists in prison for up to 15 years if they publish any stories the government considers “fake.”
Thousands of Russian anti-war protesters have also been arrested, two local independent broadcasters were closed down, and international media websites have been blocked in the country.