Russia and the U.S. engage in name-calling — over the U.S. Embassy's Moscow address In response to the West's support of Ukraine, Moscow is renaming streets where the U.S. and British Embassies are located. The new names honor pro-Kremlin separatists fighting to break from Ukraine.

Russia and the U.S. engage in name-calling — over the U.S. Embassy's Moscow address

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

There's a new address in Moscow these days - Donetsk People's Republic Square. There's also this one - 55.75 degrees north and 37.58 degrees east. Both will bring you to the U.S. Embassy in Russia's capital, as NPR's Charles Maynes explains from Moscow.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: The address rivalry comes amid bitter differences between the U.S. and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine and an online public vote that seemed designed to troll.

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MARIA ZAKHAROVA: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: And so it was with a wink that Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova celebrated the U.S. Embassy's new address, Donetsk People's Republic Square, as a tribute to Russian support for Kremlin-backed separatists fighting in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

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ZAKHAROVA: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: "I hope the U.S. won't take too long to recognize the new republic," said Zakharova in a press conference last month. And she urged Russians to write the new embassy address often. Fast-forward to this week, and the U.S. unveiled a workaround. The embassy's website now lists its coordinates as coordinates - 55.75 degrees north and 37.58 degrees east, digits that supposedly get you where you need to be.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: On a recent rainy afternoon, I tested that theory on taxi driver Denis Usmanov. I punched in the coordinates...

DENIS USMANOV: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: ...And up popped Donetsk People's Republic Square on Usmanov's screen. It was the first he'd heard of it.

USMANOV: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: "It doesn't matter what they call it," says Usmanov. "My job is to get you there." Besides, he notes, this city is always changing. For Moscow, the shifting nature of streets and politics isn't exactly new. The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 saw Tsarist-era addresses ditched in favor of those honoring the communist leadership, just as the end of the USSR in 1991 brought the return of many historical names.

SERGEI STANKEVICH: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: Sergei Stankevich, who served as a deputy mayor for the city during that era of change, says it took residents some time to adapt to the new names, but he has no idea when or if locals will take to Donetsk People's Republic Square.

STANKEVICH: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: "It's just what today we call trolling," says Stankevich. But even if Russia gets the last laugh in this battle of addresses, the U.S. can take some comfort in numbers. This week, Moscow's mayor announced the British Embassy just down the road is now at Luhansk People's Republic Square - or depending on your politics, 55.75 degrees north, 37.50 degrees east.

Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.

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