- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Apple caused an uproar Wednesday over how the American company’s popular iPhone applications refer to Crimea, a contested peninsula annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.

Russian government officials announced that Apple has updated its Weather app so that cities in Crimea are displayed as Russian territory to Russian users, sparking outrage in neighboring Ukraine more than five years since having its sovereignty violated by the fellow former Soviet state.

Among those who took issue with the decision were Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, who told Apple to “stick to high-tech and entertainment.”

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“Global politics is not your strong side,” Mr. Prystaiko told Apple from his verified Twitter account.

“Let me explain in your terms, @Apple,” Mr. Prystaiko said in another tweet. “Imagine you’re crying out that your design & ideas, years of work & 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 did not immediately return a message requesting comment.

Russian military forces invaded Crimea in early 2014 and held a referendum that resulted in claiming the region. Moscow was condemned by the U.S. and others, and nearly all countries have refused to recognize Crimea as Russian territory in the years since.

American companies including both Google and Apple have since faced legal pressure from Moscow to ensure their products refer to Crimea as Russian territory when accessed in Russia.

Vasily Piskarev, the chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption, announced in March that Google had fixed an “error” that prevented Crimea from showing up as Russian territory on its Google Maps app, albeit after being accused of violating of a federal law protecting “names of geographical objects.”

“We are making every effort to objectively depict the disputed regions, and where we have local versions of Google Maps, like in Russia, we follow local legislation when displaying names and borders,” a Google spokesperson said at the time.

More recently, Leonid Levin, the State Duma Committee on Information, complained in May about Crimea being displayed as Russian territory to Russian users of Apple’s Maps app but not the company’s Weather app.

“We can only welcome Apple’s decision to bring the state of its map services in accordance with the requirements of the legislation of the Russian Federation,” Mr. Levin said Wednesday, state media reported in Russian. “With this step, the company has demonstrated a desire to maintain and develop its position in the Russian market.”

Russian forces invaded Crimea in tandem with Moscow arming pro-Russian separatists at war in eastern Ukraine, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 13,000 people since 2014, the United Nations has previously estimated. The ongoing conflict is tied in the U.S. to the impeachment inquiry underway into President Trump, who risks being removed from office in connection with his administration withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

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