Nothing that insane Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, should surprise us these days after his invasion of Ukraine, which has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides and achieved nothing more than making his country an international pariah.
But even we didn’t expect him to declare our work here at VPNCompare illegal. But that is exactly what he has done with the latest amendments to the Russian legal code that determines that providing information on how to use a VPN inside Russia should be a crime.
What are the latest crazy Russian legal amendments?
The latest amendments to the Russian law, which were first spotted by TorrentFreak and signed off by Vladimir Putin himself, are formally known as Federal Law No. 406-FZ (On Amendments to the Federal Law ‘On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection’ and the Federal Law “On Communications”).
They were signed into law by the Russian megalomaniac on July 31st and includes a number of measures that further undermine online freedoms in Russia.
The most relevant ones to us relate to VPNs. Operating as a VPN inside Russia is still not technically illegal, although the previous laws that require data on Russian citizens to be retained and held on domestic servers mean that few VPNs of any worth still operate in Russia.
But, while being a VPN is not technically a crime, telling people how to use VPNs now is. Posting any information advising people on how to use VPNs to bypass restrictions, as well as similar tools such as the Tor Network is now a criminal offence.
Rest assured, we have no staff based inside Russia and will continue to post information related to Russia and advising Russians how evade laws just like this one and access information about the Putin regime and its illegal invasion of Ukraine from right across the country.
We might scrub Moscow and St Petersburg off our summer holiday list, however, at least until the Putin regime has fallen and Russia is free once more.
What other online activity is now illegal in Russia?
Flattering though it might be, Putin did not go out of his way just to ban us. There are plenty of other deeply troubling elements to the new legal amendments that he has just signed into law.
Those Russians who still want to operate on the Russian internet (and it is a rapidly dwindling number) will now need to register using verified Russian email accounts. Use of foreign email services that can be used anonymously, such as Gmail and Apple, is now illegal.
From December of this year, every Russian online platform will have to verify the identity of new users before providing them with any service. This means using Government-approved verification mechanisms, not simply sending them a confirmation code via email.
Needless to say, as a result of this law, the Russian state will know exactly who is using which online service and all the details they need about their account.
Should that individual do something online that displeases the Russian state, they will be able to track them down at their home address and meat out whatever punishment Putin deems appropriate on that particular day.
The most likely verification platform that Russian websites will turn to is the Unified System of Identification and Authentication, which, even more chillingly, includes biometric data in the reams of personal information it collects and stores.
Hosting companies now require approval from the Putin regime
The new legal amendment signed into force by Putin also places a whole host of new requirements onto web hosting companies in Russia or, as the legal text describes them, companies that are “providing computing power” for the purposes of the “placement of information” on a system “permanently connected to the internet.”
It is clear that hosting companies are required to be complicit with the Russian state in every way, and they require permission from the state even to operate in the country.
They not only have to hand over any user data needed but must also provide the Russian authorities with computer power to carry out those investigations while keeping stum about the fact that they are helping them or that the investigation in question is even taking place.
The Russian state will be creating a register of web hosting companies which will come in to force on February 1st next year. As you can imagine, companies that don’t comply with all of these new laws, plus the many others they face, will be thrown off the register and effectively banned from operating in Russia.
To get on the list, a hosting company must be a Russian company owned by a Russian citizen who has no second citizenship and links to foreign countries.
In another blow to free speech in Russia, the same ownership requirements will also be placed on news aggregator sites as well.
How to get around the crazy new Russian online laws
At the risk of breaking Putin’s ridiculous new law, we should restate that the best way to get around these intrusive Russian internet laws is to use a VPN.
A VPN can help you to bypass Russian state censorship and controls and access the internet freely to read the truth about the Putin regime and interact freely without fear of state reprisals for speaking your mind.
To help you find the right VPN to use inside Putin’s Russia, take a look at our Best VPN for Russia article, which reviews all of the best options available.
We would, of course, caution that using VPNs in Russia is not without its risks, even though they are still not technically illegal in the country just yet. Do take all precautions if you plan to use one, including activating the kill switch to ensure none of your data can leak.
The threats of Putin’s regime against sites like ours will do nothing to stop us from offering this advice. And it will do nothing to stop the brave Russian people from using VPNs to access information and online services and continue to fight for the future of their country.
Being declared illegal by Vladimir Putin is something we here at VPNCompare will wear as a badge of honour.