Ukraine crisis: Crimea made part of Russia on Google Maps – but only for Russian users

When viewed from Ukraine and the rest of the world, Crimea’s border is ‘disputed’

The disputed border between Crimea and Ukraine has been changed in the latest update to Google Maps, making the peninsula an official part of the Russian federation – but only for Russian users.

This revision of Europe's borders has only come into effect in Russia itself, meaning that when viewed from the rest of the world the divide is still marked with the bold dotted line reserved for internationally-disputed territories.

Perhaps more bizarrely, the update actually only seems to affect the border line itself – place names within Crimea are still listed as being part of Ukraine (such as Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine).

The change appears to have come as a result of pressure imposed on Google Russia by Vladimir Putin's government, according to recent reports in the Moscow Times.

At the end of last month the long-running Russian broadsheet newspaper Izvestia reported that a politician, Anatoly Sidyakin, had asked the "Federal Mass Media Inspection Service" to investigate the portrayal of the Crimean border on Russian websites.

Mr Sidyakin apparently asked the agency to evaluate Microsoft's Bing, Google's Maps service and the Russian-language version of Wikipedia for labelling the Black Sea peninsula as a disputed territory.

Crimea on English-language Google Maps:

Crimea as seen on Google Russia:

 

Mr Sidyakin reportedly referred agents to the popular Russian search engine Yandex which shows Russian users that Crimea is part of Russia, while showing it as part of Ukraine to Ukrainians. That example now appears to have been followed.

It is not the first time Google has sought to stay out of an international dispute by trying to please both sides. According to the Washington Post, maps of the disputed Arunachal Pradesh region of north-east India appear very differently between Google.co.in and Google.cn.

Svetlana Anurova, a spokesperson for Google Russia, told the news agency Itar-Tass: "The Google Maps team is doing its best to objectively mark disputed regions and landmarks.

"In relevant cases the borders of disputed areas are marked in a special way. In countries where we have a localized version of our service, we follow local laws on representing borders and use of landmark names."

In eastern Ukraine on Sunday the government engaged with pro-Russian militia-men in a gun battle for control of key security service and police buildings. The US accused Russia of trying to recreate circumstances similar to those that preceded the annexing of Crimea to the Russian federation.

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