Apple 'looking at how it handles borders' after Crimea map controversy

The change appears to have been made for Apple users registered as being in Russia
The change appears to have been made for Apple users registered as being in Russia
By Alastair JamiesonReuters
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Apple appears to have caved to Russian demands to label annexed Crimea as Russian — but only for Russian users


Apple is "taking a deeper look" at how it "handle[s] disputed borders" after controversially referring to Crimea as being part of Russia. 

Russia annexed Crimea from Kyiv in 2014 and the majority of countries consider it to be still part of Ukraine.

The technology firm changed its weather and maps app for Russian users to suggest Crimea belonged to Russia. 

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller told Reuters the firm has not made any changes to its maps outside of Russia and made the change for Russian users because of a new law that went into effect in that country.

"We review international law as well as relevant U.S. and other domestic laws before making a determination in labelling on our Maps and make changes if required by law. We are taking a deeper look at how we handle disputed borders in our services and may make changes in the future as a result," Muller told Reuters.

It was reported earlier this week that Apple appeared to have complied with demands by Moscow to show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory on its apps — but only for users in Russia.

Russia and Ukraine have been highly sensitive to the way global companies identify Crimea since Russian troops invaded the territory in 2014 after a referendum that Kyiv and its Western allies say was illegal.

The EU and the United States do not recognise Crimea as Russian and have imposed sanctions against the peninsula and individuals they accuse of violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Earlier this year, Russia’s parliament claimed that failing to label the Crimea as Russian amounted to a violation of Russia’s constitution by tech giants — a development first reported by Mac Observer.

Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, reported on Wednesday that the head of the committee on security and anti-corruption, Vasily Piskaryov, had held a meeting with an Apple representative.

According to a report on the State Duma website, Piskaryov said: “Apple has fulfilled its obligations and brought the programmes on its devices in line with the requirements of Russian law.”

Reuters reporters in Moscow who typed the name of the Crimean provincial capital Simferopol into Apple’s Maps and Weather apps on Wednesday saw it displayed as “Simferopol, Crimea, Russia”. Users elsewhere — including in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and in Crimea itself — see locations in Crimea displayed without specifying which country they belong to.

Ukraine responded angrily, saying Apple did not “give a damn” about its pain.

“Let me explain in your terms, Apple,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, wrote on Twitter in English. “Imagine you’re crying out that your design and ideas, years of work and piece of your heart are stolen by your worst enemy, but then somebody ignorant doesn’t give a damn about your pain. That’s how it feels when you call Crimea a Russian land.”

Google, which also produces a popular map app, does not show Crimea as belonging to either Russia or Ukraine on its maps. However, it uses the Russian spelling of Crimean place names, rather than the Ukrainian spelling, on its maps in Russia.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric was asked during his daily briefing to comment on the reported changes.

“Our position has not changed,” he told reporters. “The UN recognizes the territorial integrity of Ukraine as outlined in a relevant General Assembly resolution. So, our position has not changed. Apple is a private company.”

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