ICANN responds to Ukraine’s request to cut Russia off from the domain space

Goran Marby, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – sent a letter to Ukrainian authorities in response to their request that ICANN revoke Russian country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) – .ru, .РФ, and .su, arrange the revocation of SSL certificates issued within those domains, and shut down the subset of root servers located in Russia.

Marby noted that ICANN, in its role as the technical coordinator of unique identifiers for the internet, ‘takes actions to ensure that the workings of the internet are not politicised’, and that the organisation has ‘no sanction-levying authority’. Its mission ‘does not extend to taking punitive actions, issuing sanctions, or restricting access against segments of the Internet – regardless of the provocations’. He further explained that ICANN policies do not allow the organisation to take unilateral action to disconnect ccTLDs. The ccTLD system ‘cannot operate based on requests from one territory or country concerning internal operations within another territory or country. Such a change in the process would have devastating and permanent effects on the trust and utility of this global system.’

With regard to root servers, Marby noted that the system is composed of many distributed nodes maintained by independent operators. Furthermore, ICANN is not able to revoke the requested SSL certificates, as they are produced by third-party operators, without ICANN’s involvement. The letter also pointed out that it is ‘only through broad and unimpeded access to the Internet that citizens can receive reliable information and a diversity of viewpoints’.