What exactly is the Russian VPN ban? And are there ways to still use a virtual private network (VPN) in Russia? That might depend on the VPN provider one is using, keep on reading to get some answers.
Is Russia Heading Towards Internet Isolation?
Roskomnadzor is a government body in Russia with over 3.000 employees that is responsible for media and telecom censorship there. Ten VPN providers have been ordered by Roskomnadzor to block websites that are on the Russian government’s blacklist.
Many of these ten companies are known for their no-logs policy, dedicated to their user’s privacy. These VPN providers are a thorn in Vladimir Putin’s eye, who already in 2017 signed a bill into law aiming to prevent citizens from working around local website bans.
Websites on the Russian blacklist range from to The New York Times, to the Russian Wikipedia – blocked for having an article on cannabis smoking, to pages relating to political activism such as a Facebook page about Alexei Navalny. Other pages blocked are related to alternative currencies like Bitcoin.
Interestingly, the Russian government seems wary of mind-expansion, as Russian Reddit users are also blocked from seeing a post on Reddit about how to grow your own Psilocybe mushrooms.
So now with this order of Roskomnadzor, these ten providers have been forced to make a choice. Co-operate and bring user’s privacy in jeopardy by giving Roskomnadzor access to their servers, or stop offering their services in Russia.
Next, we will mention which of these providers are no longer working in Russia, and what other VPN providers still offer their services there.
Which VPNs Have Decided To Leave Russia And What Are The Alternatives?
So while Russia may not be as far ahead as China with their infamous Great Firewall, it has been said that China shared some internet censorship knowledge with other countries.>
How have the ten VPN providers reacted? NordVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, HideMyAss and OpenVPN have announced they are shutting down all of their Russian servers and that they will not comply with the demands of Roskomnadzor. While ExpressVPN has no announcements saying they’re pulling out of Russia, they don’t have servers active in Russia.
VyprVPN has said it won’t censor websites, but according to their website, they do have a server active in Moscow. It’s not clear whether Hola works in Russia, but it can’t really be counted as a VPN, but is rather a proxy, and is in any case not recommended in any way.
The only VPN provider complying seems to be the only Russian provider: Kaspersky Secure Connection.
With a lot of these VPN providers refusing to comply with censorship demands, it remains unclear whether Russia has taken steps to block these providers. But it is for sure that connecting to Russia with the providers that pulled out their servers is not possible anymore.
So it is dependent on your needs what steps to take. Are you in Russia? Do you want to connect to Russia? Perhaps a shorter term VPN subscription makes more sense.
And finally, here are a few VPN providers that have not been handed a notice by Roskomnadzor, and have servers in Russia.
VPN Providers With Servers Active In Russia
Windscribe is a VPN provider that’s getting a lot of buzz in relation to Russia, and they have servers located there, as well as in plenty of other countries.
Surfshark also has servers in Russia, and offers a free trial. Hotspot Shield is also an option for connecting to Russia, and is very reputable when it comes to privacy.
The situation in Russia and the providers seem very sensitive to change. What may work now may not work tomorrow. One option to have a shorter term subscription, so that switching subscriptions is easier.
When wanting to connect to a Russian server, be sure to check if the VPN provider has servers there before subscribing.