Russia’s Bold Move: Targeting VPNs for a 2024 Nationwide Ban

VPN on phone above a Russian flag background

A Russian Senator from the political party of Vladimir Putin has confirmed that Russia intends to try and fully block the use of VPNs inside the country next year.

He announced that from the 1st March 2024, the Rozkomnadzor, Russia’s communications enforcement agency, will be taking steps to block the use of VPNs nationwide.

What has the Putin regime announced?

The revelation came from Senator Artem Sheikin, who told state news agency RIA, “From March 1, 2024, an order will come into force to block VPN services providing access to sites banned in Russia.”

According to the Reuters news agency, he added that it was particularly important to block access to sites run by Meta (Facebook) in Russia.

This includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Sheikin is quoted as saying, “I would like to note that it is especially important to restrict citizens’ access to the products of Meta, which is recognised as an extremist organization.”

Regular readers will know that this is not the first time that the Russian authorities have attempted to crack down on the use of VPNs in the country.

Russia’s history of attacks on VPNs and online freedom

Last year, six popular VPNs, including ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and IPVanish, were blocked in Russia by the Rozkomnadzor.

That followed a demand issued to ten top VPNs back in 2021 that they store all Russian user data on servers in Russia and make that data accessible to the Russian authorities on demand.

The majority of those VPNs written to refused to comply. The only one that did, Kaspersky VPN, which was already based in Russia, has since shut down altogether.

The illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine saw VPN use spike inside Russia as people took steps to read the truth about the war rather than the propaganda being fed to them by the Government-controlled state media inside Russia.

At the time, the then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson even went as far as to urge Russian people to get a VPN so they could bypass state censorship and learn the truth about their government.

Earlier this year, the Putin regime attempted to use scare tactics in order to prevent the Russian people from using VPNs. The Rozkomnadzor issued a warning that VPN users risked having their private data stolen if they used VPNs; a claim so ludicrous as to almost be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

In August of this year, there was a fresh wave of technical issues for VPN users (not the first time this has happened by any means), which saw users of VPNs on many of the biggest Russian mobile networks experience service outages.

Now, it seems, the Putin regime has decided to go for the jugular.

Stripping VPNs out of the RuStore

In May 2022, the Russian regime launched RuStore, a Russian-only app store that is ultimately intended to allow Russia to block the Google Play Store and Apple App Store entirely and only allow Russians to access apps that are pre-approved and controlled by the Russian authorities.

To date, the RuStore does include several VPN apps. This includes VyprVPN, which the Russian Government has announced as banned before, and some VPNs like VPNHub, which don’t actually work in Russia at all, even now.

Now, Senator Sheikin has demanded that RuStore examines its VPN apps much more closely, not so much to weed out the wheat from the chaff as to remove the wheat altogether.

Sheikin wrote in an appeal to Maxut Shadayev, Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, saying, “It seems that one of the most important criteria for their placement should be compliance with the legislation of the Russian Federation regarding non-provision of access to the register of prohibited information.”

So, the situation in Russia will soon be that any VPN that can encrypt your online data to protect it from the prying eyes of the Putin regime or unblock any websites blocked by the state that might tell you the truth about the regime and its illegal way will be blocked.

All other VPNs will remain available.

Needless to say, these VPNs will be totally worthless and provide far more of a threat than a protection to your online safety.

What should Russian VPN users do?

So, what should Russian VPN users do?

Well, the best VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN will still work in Russia regardless of what the authorities there do.

If they can withstand everything the Chinese Communist Party has thrown at them over the years, there is no question that they will be more than a match for the impoverished Russian government too.

But it may well become harder to find and download these VPN apps. So, the best advice we can give is to sign up and download a reputable VPN now before this new ban comes into force that will make things much harder.

You might also want to have two mobile devices, one with your VPN and other ‘illegal’ apps installed and one without, in case the authorities ever stop and search you.

But the one thing you must never do is give in and follow the Russian regime’s line on this. The truth about Putin and his illegal war must get through in Russia to ease the transition to a new democratic government once he has been defeated.

VPNs are a vital tool for free information and democracy in Putin’s Russia, and everyone has a duty to make sure that attempts to ban them are thwarted.

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 7 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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