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Google in hot water over Crimean street names

US tech giant Google came under fire on Thursday in Russia for “decommunising” street names in parts of Crimea, annexed from Ukraine two years ago, by using Ukrainian spellings.

“I think it’s a short-sighted policy,” Russian Minister of Communications Nikolai Nikiforov told Rossiya 24 television, adding he hoped “the mistake is corrected.”

“If Google pays so little attention to Russian law and the names of Russian localities then it will not be able to do business effectively on Russian territory,” Nikiforov warned.

In a Facebook post, Sergei Aksyonov, prime minister of the disputed region, accused Google Maps of producing a “propaganda product rather than real maps” in using Ukrainian transliterations for the area.

Several Russian users of Google Maps had earlier in the week pointed out use of the Ukrainian versions in line with a “decommunisation” law passed last year in Ukraine.

Some 900 place names are affected and the dispute adds to the deep discord between Moscow and Kiev, already at loggerheads over a two-year war in east Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have revolted against Kiev’s pro-Western government.

The United Nations has rejected the Russian annexation of Crimea.

A Russian spokesman for Google said the firm was working on ensuring that the Russian version of the localities concerned would be incorporated into the Russian-language version of Google Maps.

“We are actively working on giving (localities) their old names in the Russian version of Google Maps,” the spokesman told Ukrainian financial daily RBK.