Russia’s biggest tech company, Yandex, announced on Thursday that it’s removing all borders from its maps app.
The move comes as the invasion of Ukraine still rages on, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin openly talks about expanding the country’s borders, and Ukrainians fear Russia will use sham referendums to annex parts of the country.
“Yandex Maps is a universal service that helps people find organizations and places nearby, choose public transport and plan comfortable routes. These are the main use-cases for our users,” company spokesperson Polina Pestova told Motherboard in an email. “In the near future, the map will become more physical-geographical on scales where it’s not used for its main purpose - i.e. overview scales of the map. The emphasis there will switch from country borders to natural objects.”
Pestova emphasized that this is not a political decision.
“Our goal is to display the world around. Therefore, some objects like mountains, rivers, lines of the polar circles and other data which is specific to this type of map will appear on it,” her statement read.
The change comes as Putin compared himself to 18th-century Russian tsar Peter the Great, infamous for waging war on the Swedish empire, which fought back with allies Norway, Denmark, and Saxony, modern day Poland and Lithuania.
“Peter the Great waged the great northern war for 21 years. It would seem that he was at war with Sweden, he took something from them. He did not take anything from them, he returned [what was Russia’s],” Putin said on Thursday.
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