RIPE meetings: IP addresses as spoils of war

The war in Ukraine also affects the Internet administration. IP address managers report problems and fear that addresses will become spoils of war.

The war in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia are also issues at the 85th meeting of the Réseaux IP Européens Network (RIPE), for which the European IP address managers are currently convening in Belgrade. The cry for help from the Ukrainian members to freeze IP address assignments in the contested areas to prevent their confiscation is becoming more and more urgent.

The transfer of IP addresses from Ukrainian companies to Russian owners in the contested areas must be stopped immediately, demanded lawyer Andrii Pylypenko, who advises the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. All transfers of Ukrainian IP addresses to new Russian sites are illegal.

Representatives of Ukrainian IT companies and associations support the claim. She knows about forced transfers of IP addresses “at gunpoint,” Olena Kushnir from provider Web Pro told the RIPE meeting in Belgrade. One should not lose any more time, appealed Viktoriia Opanasiuk from the Telecom Ukraine Association.

The best possible protection is the immediate freezing of Ukrainian IP addresses and numbers for autonomous systems (AS), says Pylypenko. The lawyer offered that RIPE’s operational arm responsible for transfers and assignments, RIPE NCC, could cooperate with Ukrainian authorities. These tried to protect Ukrainian IT companies as well as possible. According to Pylypenko, such cooperation reduces any legal risks for the RIPE NCC and allows immediate action.

The immediate or temporary freezing of all address and prefix transfers prevents the risk of illegal and forced transfers, but also legitimate transfers warned RIPE NCC General Counsel Athina Fragkouli. In addition, the RIPE database might then no longer display the correct owner entries.

“We would be violating our own statutes and would therefore like to have a corresponding policy that is approved by the members,” said Fragkouli. Without such a change, lawsuits against the organization cannot be ruled out. The involvement of Ukrainian government agencies, brought into play by Pypylenko, is shifting the self-government model in the direction of greater government influence. This also requires a decision by the members.

The adoption of a new policy would take at least months, criticized numerous members. The almost unanimous opinion was that the colleagues in Ukraine needed a solution immediately. A temporary freeze mechanism, for example, is ultimately a contractual agreement and not a new policy, says Erik Bais, co-chair of the “Address Policy” working group.

Fragkouli emphasized that there is already no legal obstacle to a particularly critical examination of the requested transfers. In addition, a disclaimer can be added to the transfers, which refers to the special situation in the country and states that the transfer can be reversed in the event of later court proceedings. Such a disclaimer could also cause a further transfer to be blocked.

The executive board of IP address management now wants to decide on an interim solution against address theft. The newly appointed CEO Ondrej Sury assured the members that a resolution by the board would quickly be found, which could extend to changes in the RIPE statutes. A political solution for the treatment of transfers in “areas under distress” is to follow.

There are still many questions to be answered – for example, what happens if areas are claimed by several governments (“areas in dispute”). A network operator from Crimea asked how RIPE would view its IP address resources: “Some say we’re Ukrainian, others say we’re Russian.” As a Ukrainian company, a complete freeze on transfers of Ukrainian resources would even put you at a disadvantage, because other Crimea companies can happily sell and transfer.

The war against Ukraine occupies address management in several respects. The number of RIPE members affected by the sanctions has doubled since the spring. The RIPE NCC receives hundreds of reports that need to be checked. For the time being, the addresses of the Russian members will simply be frozen. The RIPE NCC has refrained from withdrawing addresses, as Ukrainian members are demanding.

The membership fees are deferred for the time being, because a transfer to the commercial banks of the RIPE NCC is also blocked by sanctions. Meanwhile, the Amsterdam-based office of the RIPE NCC is negotiating with the Dutch authorities for a general exemption from sanctions for communication resources.

At the same time, the RIPE NCC commissioned a study on the subject of sanctions. Study director Farzaneh Badii gave an overview in Belgrade of the importance of sanctions for the Internet since the 1990s. Possible political solutions include derogations, including at the international level. But Badii also spoke of possible changes in the structure of the Regional Internet Registries (RIR). Perhaps the system is outdated as a regional structure.

A shift in the regional address world had become apparent within the RIPE, among other things with the dissolution of the Eurasia Network Operators Group, which had been founded to improve the participation of the Eastern European members. Established in 2010, ENOG disbanded at the start of the war. The address administrators are now faced with the question of how to integrate the group, which has at least 20,000 members, in the future.

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