The United Nations went in damage control mode on Tuesday after The Irish Times reported the organization had instructed its staff not to use the words "war" or "invasion" when referring to the ongoing, Russian-led crisis in Ukraine.
The U.N. spokesperson later disputed the claim, but not before Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba condemned the rumors himself.
The controversy stems from a Monday email shared with Irish journalist Naomi O'Leary that purportedly requests U.N. staff refer to the Russian attack as a "conflict" or "military offensive," rather than a "war" or an "invasion," for reasons of political sensitivity, the Irish Times reports. The email also asks staff to refrain from adding the Ukrainian flag to personal or official social media accounts or websites.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
After the story broke, the U.N. reportedly told O'Leary that it does not "dispute the validity of that email but it can not be considered official policy to staff."
Fact-checking website Snopes was told by spokesperson for the secretary-general Stephane Dujarric that Secretary-General António Guterres "has used a wide range of words in his statements and remarks to the press to describe what is going on."
When Snopes asked for a copy of the email obtained by the Irish Times, "[t]he spokesperson told us that while he does not doubt the existence of an email that was said to be sent out, there there was no such communication sent from headquarters."
O'Leary later shared a message she had allegedly received from an "ashamed" U.N. employee, thanking her for reporting on the issue.
The journalist also tweeted follow-up to the U.N.'s original guidance that suggests perhaps the directive to avoid "war" and "invasion" was quickly reversed.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.