More than five year after Russia took control of the peninsula, the sovereignty dispute between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea is still sensitive for online service providers. As reported by BBC and Reuters, Apple has complied with Russian demands to show the peninsula as part of Russia in its Maps and Weather apps for Russian users.
When using Apple Maps from Russian, the app displays Crimean city Simferopol as “Simferopol, Crimea, Russia.” The country is not specified if the app is used elsewhere, including in Ukraine and Crimea itself.
“Let me explain in your terms, Apple,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, wrote on Twitter. “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.”
“Apple has fulfilled its obligations and brought the programs on its devices in line with the requirements of Russian law,” stated Vasily Piskaryov, head of a Russian parliament committee, after a meeting with Apple representatives.
Under fire from both sides
Since 2014, as Ukraine still claimed its sovereignty over the peninsula, map publishers, search engines, and a range of other organizations have come under fire from both Ukraine and Russia depending on whether they attributed Crimea to one or the other.
In 2016, a controversy sparked over Google’s decision to change the names of Crimean settlements appearing on Google Maps, in accordance with the Ukrainian authorities’ “decommunization” campaign. Google’s moves unleashed a flurry of criticism from Russian and Russo-Crimean officials, after which the US company restored the previous names in both the Russian and the Ukrainian versions of Google Maps.
More recently, in March 2019, Google “corrected an error that caused a small number of Russian iOS users” to see Crimea as part of Ukraine.
In late 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. The community moderator apologized and posted an amended map.
The sovereignty dispute over Crimea and its legal implications also led several international companies to suspend activities in the peninsula. So did Apple, Google, PayPal and other US tech giants as early as 2014. Thus, Crimean gamers were locked out of playing popular online multiplayer games, as their US publisher was forced to suspend the accounts in compliance with Western sanctions.
However, in May 2015, the US administration allowed American companies to continue providing Crimean users with a range of free online communications services.
In 2016, nevertheless, Ukraine sued Booking.com for operating continuously in Crimea. That same year, Russian authorities threatened to ban to ban Trip Advisor, whose website still displayed Crimea as being Ukrainian territory, from operating in Russia, as reported by East-West Digital News.