Google Maps Makes Crimea Part of Russia — But Only For Russian Users

Google has taken the plunge: Google Maps now designates Crimea a part of the Russian Federation — but only for Russian users. If you access Google Maps from its Russian site, google.ru/maps, then you'll find Crimea separated from the rest of Ukraine by a solid black line, indicating an international border. But if you access Maps from any other Google site — google.com/maps, for example — then Crimea is separated with a bold dotted line, which signifies an internationally-disputed border.

From Google's Ukrainian maps site, google.ua/maps, nothing has changed whatsoever. There is still a feint grey dotted line dividing the peninsula from the mainland, the same used across the whole country to delineate provincial borders.

Interestingly, as you can see on the maps below, the border is the only thing that Google has made a change to. In the top left-hand corner it still says "Crimea, Ukraine." The same things stand when you search for individual towns on the disputed peninsula.

Svetlana Anurova, a spokeswoman for Google in Russia, told the Itar-Tass news agency that localized versions of Google Maps follow local laws, and since Russia claims Crimea as its own, the maps in Russia reflect that.

“Google mapmakers are doing everything possible to offer objective maps of disputed areas. In relevant cases, disputed borders have special markings,” she said. “In countries where we have localized versions, we follow the local laws with respect to borders and geographic names.”

CRIMEA AS SEEN ON GOOGLE.COM

CRIMEA AS SEEN ON GOOGLE.RU

CRIMEA AS SEEN ON GOOGLE.UA

The move by Google appears to be a result of pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin's government to solidify his nation's hold over the peninsula. But this is not the only disputed region that Google has had to handle. Apparently there are more than 30 versions of Google Maps.

Google's approach to Crimea mirrors the way it has handled other disputes involving Russia, including the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow considers sovereign states but parts of the West consider part of Georgia.

As Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces inch ever-closer to civil war in Eastern Ukraine, there's a chance that Google Maps may soon be called upon to redraw its borders once again.