UN says email ordering staff not to call Russian war ‘invasion’ came from regional office

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The United Nations on Tuesday moved to squash reporting that it had directed all staff to avoid using terms like “war” and “invasion” when referring to the fighting in Ukraine.

“It is simply not the case that staff have been instructed not to use words like ‘war’ and ‘invasion’ to describe the situation,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the secretary-general, told Fox News. 

A service for two soldiers who died fighting in the eastern part of Ukraine takes place at Lychakiv cemetery on March 8, 2022, in Lviv.
(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


Dujarric said it was a “mistaken impression” after the Irish Times reported Tuesday that the chief international agency had directed its staff to instead use wording like “military operation.”

The email was reportedly distributed internally among a regional office to employees, advising them to be mindful that they are “international civil servants” and “have a responsibility to be impartial.”

But the email caused a stir Tuesday as Russian continues its illegal assault on Ukraine. 

“One email from a local office to their local staff is not representative of instructions given to U.N. staff worldwide,” Dujarric said.

Mourners react during a funeral service for two Ukrainian soldiers at Lychakiv cemetery on March 8, 2022, in Lviv, Ukraine. 

Mourners react during a funeral service for two Ukrainian soldiers at Lychakiv cemetery on March 8, 2022, in Lviv, Ukraine. 
(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


The chief spokesman pointed to language still being used by top U.N. officials like Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, who on Monday condemned actions taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin against Ukrainian civilians and said, “This war is senseless.”

“Nearly two weeks on, it is painfully clear that those suffering the most after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are civilians – killed, wounded, displaced. This war is senseless,” she said in a tweet. “We are ready to support all good-faith efforts at negotiation to end the bloodshed.” 

Fox News also obtained an email that was distributed by the U.N. globally that directed all staffers to abide by U.N. policies when engaging on social media and to frame communication on Ukraine “in a manner that is consistent with the position of the Organization and the statements of the Secretary-General.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also referred to Putin’s invasion as a “war” in a tweet Tuesday and said, “The war in Ukraine not only has a dramatic impact on the lives of civilians but also has global repercussions.”

“Developing countries already in dire situations can simply not afford skyrocketing prices of food, fuel and other essential goods,” he added. 

Putin has taken several suppressive steps to control the language and attitude of Russians at home by shutting down major news outlets and barring words like “invasion” and “war.”

Putin has instead referred to the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty as a “special military operation” and the Kremlin has shut down internal protests of the war through mass arrests and imprisonments.