Last week Oleg Mikheyev, a member of the State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament), requested the Prosecutor General to inquire into TripAdvisor, whose website displays Crimea as being a Ukrainian territory. This misrepresentation could be enough to ban the US company from operating in Russia, suggests Mikheyev.
“In the present time, all possible propaganda methods are being used for political struggle. This includes commercial organizations conducting political activities against Russia’s interests,” Russian news agency TASS quoted Mikheyev as saying.
The MP did not rule out, however, a possible “regrettable mistake” from the TripAdvisor’s side.
This was no mistake, the TripAdvisor press service told East-West Digital News: “As the world’s largest travel website, our geo-classifications take into account guidance from the international community. In the case of Crimea we follow the geo-classification currently agreed by the United Nations. Additionally, the maps displayed on TripAdvisor’s websites and native apps are provided by Google Maps,” the company stated in an email.
Even the Russian version of TripAdvisor displays Crimea as being a part of Ukraine
Russia has been claiming sovereignty over Crimea since March 2014. Amid the revolutionary turmoil that hit Ukraine at that time, a controversial referendum backed Russia’s claim, a few weeks after the peninsula was invaded by a special Russian task force.
Trade not far from politics
In late 2014, condemning what they consider to be an illegal annexation, the US government barred US-registered companies from investing in Crimea or providing services to companies there. Thus major American Internet and tech companies such as Apple, Google, PayPal and game publishers suspended services to Crimean users. A few months later, however, the US authorities softened their position.
Meanwhile, the issue has remained extremely sensitive in Russia. In late December 2015, Russian patriots felt offended when Coca Cola posted a greeting card on Vkontakte, the leading Russian social network, showing a map of Russia without Crimea and two other peripheral territories.
After numerous comments expressing various degrees of dismay, the community moderator apologized and posted an amended map, as reported by Bloomberg.
On their side, Russian politicians have repeatedly threatened to ban international companies from operating in the entire Russian territory, should they refuse to serve their Crimean clients or users, or discriminate them in any other way.
Thus last year Chinese e-commerce giant AliExpress resumed delivery to Crimea, just a few months after stopping to serve the Black Sea peninsula.