Several Apple users, identifying themselves as living in Russia, reported that from Apple’s map app inside Russia, Crimea appears to be part of the country, rather than Ukraine.
Screenshots of Apple Maps viewed by Global News also show a border between the rest of Ukraine and Crimea — and no border at the Kerch Strait, between Russia and Crimea.
For users outside of Russia, Crimea appears as part of Ukraine in the app at a cursory glance, but without a country designation when searching in the weather app.
Apple had been negotiating with the Russian parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, since May to change how Crimea was portrayed in its apps, which Russia’s parliament denounced as inaccurate.
Apple did not respond to email or phone requests for comment from Global News on their Crimea decision.
On Wednesday, a senior Russian lawmaker, Vasilii Piskarev, said he was personally informed by a Moscow-based Apple representative that the inaccuracies “were finally removed,” bringing Apple devices and applications in compliance with Russian regulation.
Apple held out for longer than some of its competitors. Google updated its maps to show Crimea as separate from Ukraine in 2014, reflected in a dotted line marking a border between the two.
“We are making every effort to objectively depict the disputed regions, and where we have local versions of Google Maps, we follow local legislation when displaying names and borders,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Russia was widely condemned by the international community following the annexation, resulting in its suspension from what was then the G8 and sanctions from several countries, including the U.S. and European Union.
Since the annexation, the United Nations has adopted a resolution that recognizes Ukraine’s ownership of Crimea and Russia as the region’s occupying power.
Neither the United States nor Canada currently recognize Crimea as part of Russia, and politicians across the globe took to social media to condemn Apple for its decision.
“Stick to high-tech and entertainment. Global politics is not your strong side,” Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Vadym Prystaiko tweeted at the tech company.
— Vadym Prystaiko (@VPrystaiko) November 27, 2019
The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington also voiced their disappointment that Apple caved to Russian pressure.
In a post on Twitter, the embassy said that occupation was not the same as sovereignty, adding that Ukrainians were “not giving any thanks to @Apple this #Thanksgiving.”
— UKR Embassy in USA (@UKRintheUSA) November 27, 2019
Prystaiko’s political Lithuanian counterpart, Linas Linkevicius, urged Apple to reverse its decision.
“It’s still occupied by #Russia, it’s the land of #Ukraine, there are still people dying in this war,” Linkevicius tweeted.
We join🇺🇦in expressing disappointment with @Apple's approach to #Crimea as Russia. We call on Apple to revert this ignorant standpoint as status quo has not changed in Crimea: it's still occupied by #Russia, it's the land of #Ukraine, there are still people dying in this war. https://t.co/kfHd7fkjlj
— Linas Linkevicius (@LinkeviciusL) November 28, 2019
Conservative Party of Canada MP James Bezan also chimed in, calling Apple’s recognition of the annexation “outrageous.”
“Canada and our allies have remained steadfastly opposed to Vladimir Putin’s invasion and illegal occupation of Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” said Bezan in a tweet.
— James Bezan (@jamesbezan) November 28, 2019
Russia is far from the first country to have its cartography changed by Apple online. In October, Apple caved to China’s demands that Taiwan be shown as part of the People’s Republic of China, and agreed to censor the Taiwanese flag emoji in an update to its iOS 13.1 operating system.
When pressed about Chinese policies at a news conference two years ago, Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said the company was required to abide by the laws stipulated inside every country.
“Each country in the world decides their laws and their regulations, and so your choice is: Do you participate? Or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be?” he said.
“You get in the arena, because nothing ever changes from the sideline.”