Apple criticized by Ukraine for labeling Crimea as part of Russia

Apple Maps reportedly shows Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, as part of Russia in local versions of the app.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read
Apple Maps logo

Apple's Maps app.

James Martin/CNET

Ukraine's Minister for Foreign Affairs accused Apple of ignorance after news reports this week the tech giant labeled Crimea as part of Russia in local versions of its Maps app.

Apple's move came after negotiations between the tech giant and the Russian government over the way Crimea is represented, the BBC reported Wednesday. Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014, leading to international outrage and the country's expulsion from the G8 summit.

" IPhones are great products," Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs, tweeted from his verified Twitter account Wednesday. (The Ukrainian government confirmed the authenticity of the tweet.) "Seriously, though, @Apple, please, please, stick to high-tech and entertainment. Global politics is not your strong side. #CrimeaIsUkraine."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The Ukrainian government declined to comment further.

This is not the first time Apple's been criticized for mishandling international issues. Most recently in October, Apple reportedly pulled a mapping app that crowdsources the location of police and protesters in Hong Kong from the App Store, saying it violated the store's guidelines and local laws. The move came after Apple was criticized by the Chinese state newspaper and accused of facilitating illegal behavior. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook defended the move at the time, saying in a company email the decision to pull the app was "not easy." "This use put the app in violation of Hong Kong law. Similarly, widespread abuse clearly violates our App Store guidelines barring personal harm," Cook wrote.

On Oct. 18, US lawmakers urged Apple to reinstate the app, saying Apple's move was "deeply concerning."

So far, no lawmakers appear to have commented on the way Apple Maps displays Crimea's borders. That may also have something to do with the way the app works in different countries. The BBC's report was based on the way Apple Maps displays Crimea if a user is in Russia. But if they're in the US, Apple Maps does not clearly label Crimea as being in Ukraine or Russia.

Originally published Nov. 27.
Update, Nov. 28: Adds the Ukrainian government confirming the authenticity of the tweets and declining to comment further.