If China is the most dangerous place in the world to go online freely using a VPN, Russia unquestionably runs it a close second.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has proved himself to be every bit as much of a dictator as his Soviet predecessors.
The kleptocratic regime he oversees has proved with its illegal annexation of Crimea, attempts to poison critics with chemical weapons on British soil, and treatment of opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny.
The rule of law means nothing to it.
For the people of Russia, this means they have a choice between compliance or keeping their heads down. There was a time when the internet offered an escape route to be open about their views and critical of the regime that controls them.
But in recent years, Putin has moved to put a stop to this. Russian Internet Service Providers are controlled by the state, VPN services are heavily controlled and the Russian Government censors much of what is available online. They have even tested a system that would allow Russia, like China, to remove its national intranet from the global internet entirely.
For Russians who want to enjoy internet freedom, escape Putin's internet censorship, and use the internet openly, a VPN for Russia is essential. But Putin has made it much harder to find a safe and secure VPN service than it once was.
In this guide, we will tell Russian readers which VPNs are the best VPN for Russia right now and also tell you everything you need to know about using a Russia VPN to access the internet safely inside Putin's Russia.
Best VPN for Russia
We will go into a lot more detail about how we chose the top Russia VPN services below, but let's begin with a rundown of the top 7 VPNs for Russia:
- Audited no log policy
- Registered outside Russia
- Proven log policy
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Easy to use apps
- Top levels of encryption
- Monthly package pricey
- No Russian servers
ExpressVPN is unquestionably the number 1 VPN for Russia.
The ExpressVPN service has VPN server locations in 94 countries. While there isn't a Russian server option, this won't be a problem for most people inside Russia since they are usually trying to avoid having a Russian IP address to get around Russian government internet censorship.
The connection speeds from ExpressVPN are excellent, which is important since many users will be connecting over long distances. In our tests they outpaced the speeds of almost all other providers.
If you want to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and other streaming sites, ExpressVPN works well too, with the fast consistent speeds you need across their whole server network.
ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. Being based in the British Virgin Islands means that ExpressVPN is not subject to any data retention laws, which along with their strict no logs policy which has been independently audited, is excellent news for your privacy.
A built-in kill switch is available on ExpressVPN and also DNS leak protection (against DNS requests), cutting your internet instantly if you lose connection to your VPN server. There is also unlimited bandwidth, which ideal for streaming content and other data intensive activity.
ExpressVPN also has one of the largest ranges of user-friendly apps available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV devices and more. Even better, you can connect up to five devices simultaneously too.
If you are looking for a Virtual Private Network that will let you use the internet safely and freely inside Russia, ExpressVPN is the best choice for you.
Our #1 Recommended VPN
30-day money back guarantee
- Very easy to use
- Prices extremely cheap
- Audited no log policy
- Supports Wireguard
- Registered off shore
- Not the fastest
- No Russian servers
If you are looking for a cost-effective VPN that is packed full of features, NordVPN could be the one for you.
NordVPN is one of the easiest to use VPN services around, with some of the best-designed apps on the market available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
The NordVPN service offers over 5,600 servers in total, which is more than most other VPN providers. There is not currently any Russian server options but there are plenty in neighbouring countries.
Streaming services work well on NordVPN too. You can access the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and other major streaming services with ease.
NordVPN is secure too. This VPN encrypts all your data with 256-bit AES encryption. It is packed with security features, including a NAT firewall on all its servers to protect against malicious attacks, a double VPN feature that lets you connect via two VPN servers for extra protection, split tunneling, an effective kill switch, and much more.
This will protect all your online traffic from prying eyes from both the Russian government and your internet provider too.
NordVPN is based offshore which means it has a no logs promise that is watertight and that has been independently audited and verified too.
Compared to most major VPN providers, NordVPN is seriously cheap too and with a 30-day money-back guarantee and excellent customer support, Russian internet traffic is safe on this VPN.
3. CyberGhost VPN
- Great for streaming
- 45-day money back guarantee
- Large range of apps
- Servers in St Petersburg
- Good download speeds
- Unaudited log policy
- Owners own ‘VPN Review' sites
CyberGhost VPN has significantly improved its service in recent years, but it still goes somewhat under the radar, making it one of the best VPNs for Russia.
Their recently redesigned apps are available on all the most popular devices and are among the most user-friendly around. If you are a VPN beginner, CyberGhost is an excellent bet as you can choose what you want to do and they will set everything else up for you automatically.
CyberGhost has more than 7300 VPN connections across the world. Unlike the top two on this list, CyberGhost includes some Russian servers on this list with a bank of 60 located in St Petersburg.
These will allow Russian users to log on securely with a Russian IP address, access Russian content, streaming services, and watch Russian TV. However, it pays to be wary of servers located in Russia due to the Russian authorities.
CyberGhost also works with other popular streaming services and we had no trouble unlocking many Netflix libraries, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video.
As well as speed and ease of use, CyberGhost has robust 256-bit AES encryption, a sound no user logs guarantee (although not independently verified) and you can use CyberGhost on just about any device you like.
CyberGhost comes with a huge 45-day money-back guarantee which is more than most. You can also use the service on up to 7 devices simultaneously, although you do need to de-register some if you hit the limit, which is both uncommon and a bit unnecessary.
This aside, CyberGhost is an impressive VPN that does the basics very well indeed and ticks all the right boxes for Russian users.
- Servers in Russia
- Unblock 30 Netflix regions
- 30-day money back guarantee
- Large range of apps
- No log policy unaudited
- Newer provider
Surfshark VPN is the new kid on the block when it comes to evading the Russian VPN ban and getting online safely inside Putin's Russia is a very good thing.
This VPN has not been picked up on by the Russian government yet, which means its Russian servers are still working well and can help you to access Russian content and the wider internet with ease.
Surfshark has excellent connection speeds, which are also reliable and consistent. It has plenty of server locations around the world with more than 3,200 servers in over 65 countries, including Russia.
Surfshark offers easy to use dedicated apps for many of the most popular devices such as iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, macOS, Smart TVs, gaming consoles, and even browser extensions.
It claims it has a no-logging policy and stores no user data or user activity, but some parts of the service have been audited, this doesn't extend to the no-log policy yet.
A standout feature of Surfshark VPN is the fact that you can have unlimited simultaneous connections with your subscription. Not too many VPN providers have chosen to offer unlimited simultaneous connections to all users, so it is a real USP for Surfshark.
Surfshark is another VPN that is packed with security features too.
Some of those security features include a built-in Whitelister feature that lets you to give certain apps or sites permission to bypass your VPN via split tunneling, a built-in kill switch to prevent any of your web traffic personal data from leaking, and various other features that enhance your VPN protection.
Surfshark VPN is compatible with most major streaming sites, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. If you want to be unblocking streaming sites in Russia or beyond, Surfshark is an excellent choice.
There are no internet usage limits either. The absence of data caps means you can access online content whenever you want. Surfshark is also located in the British Virgin Islands, which means your online privacy is protected too.
If that wasn't enough, there is also a 30-day money-back guarantee, superb customer support service, and some low, low prices too. Surfshark is undeniably one of the best VPNs for Russia.
- Very reliable connections
- Easy to use apps
- Special VPN protocol
- Audited no log policy
- Servers in Russia
- Not the fastest
VyprVPN has been one of the top rated VPN services for many years and its commitment to offering a no-log service proven by an audit as well as a huge network of servers has made them very popular.
VyprVPN has servers in more than 700 locations around the world including Russia. This expansive server network means VyprVPN is great for accessing streaming sites as well as bypassing internet restrictions.
The VyprVPN service comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a great dedicated customer support service that includes live chat customer support.
There are VyprVPN apps available for all the most popular devices but sadly no dedicated Amazon Fire TV app yet, so if you're a big streamer you'll need to look elsewhere.
Security features include their own Chameleon protocol that offers protection against Russian authorities snooping on your activity and online censorship. It has been specifically designed to bypass deep packet inspection and other techniques used by regimes like the one in Russia.
- Registered in Switzerland
- Owned by ProtonMail
- Strong security team
- Can be expensive
ProtonVPN is based in Switzerland and is fully compliant with the country's stringent privacy laws making it a great option for Russian internet users looking for decent online protection.
The ProtonVPN service offers server coverage in 55 countries, including Russia. It has one of the most extensive ranges of double-hop VPN servers around, unlimited bandwidth, and works with most streaming services too.
It is available on all the popular systems, like Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS and you can connect up to ten devices simultaneously.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, a free test option, and some terrific low prices too.
7. Private Internet Access
- A lot of servers
- Court proven no-log policy
- Well respected
- Owners own ‘VPN Review' sites
- Registered in the US
Private Internet Access (PIA) is an established VPN that offers some of the lowest prices around while protecting user data and offering a colossal VPN server network.
This consists of more than 31,000+ servers in 78 countries, and you can use it to protect up to ten devices simultaneously.
Private Internet Access lets you access blocked sites and also view many different streaming services with ease.
It offers robust encryption and a strict no logs policy which has been confirmed through an audit by Libsodium. Owners of CyberGhost, KAPE acquired the service but some have raised questions about this acquisition which you can read more about here.
PIA comes with a great range of mobile apps for iOS and Android devices as well as desktop apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
PIA is another good VPN provider for Russian internet users.
How we choose our recommended VPNs
Our team has been working long and hard with colleagues on the ground in Russia to reach a definitive conclusion about what are the best Virtual Private Network options inside Russia.
When drawing our conclusions, we considered a number of key features that most Russian VPN users would be on the lookout for. These included:
We looked for a VPN service that offered a minimum of 256-bit AES encryption. This is considered military grade and should be too strong for Russian government agencies and your internet service provider to crack and so guarantee strong VPN protection.
Effective Privacy Protections
Russian VPN users will all want to keep their online activity private, so we looked for VPNs with a trustworthy no user logs guarantee, ideally which had been independently audited and approved.
This will guarantee your VPN traffic is not logged and will stay private.
For many Russian internet users, security is paramount, so we were on the lookout for VPNs that offered the broadest possible range of features and options. We were particularly on the lookout for things like:
- Kill switch
- DNS leak protection
- Split tunneling
All of which are extremely useful in countries like Russia.
Some users will want servers based in Russia that are safe to use. But others will prioritise servers outside Russia to get around state censorship.
Your priority will depend on your VPN usage.
In our list, there are VPNs that offer Russian servers, but given these are few and far between because many VPNs banned in Russia, some just provide a comprehensive server network including local countries no matter where in Russia you are.
Everyone uses different devices to get online, so we have included only a VPN provider that offers a decent selection of apps for the most popular devices in Russia as well as browser extensions and other options too.
It goes without saying that Russian internet users like to stream TV shows and movies just like the rest of us.
We therefore looked out for VPNs in Russia that can access Netflix and other popular streaming sites and have no data caps or speed restrictions that might affect your viewing pleasure.
The nature of Putin's Russia means that many people are not cash rich, especially if they oppose the regime.
We have therefore looked for VPNs for Russia that are cost-effective and also those with at least a 30 day money-back guarantee.
Choosing the best VPN for Russia
We have outlined our pick of the best VPNs for Russia in the previous section and gone into some detail about why they are recommended.
But while we have opted for ExpressVPN as our top overall recommendation, that doesn't necessarily mean it is the best VPN for you. This will depend on what you generally get up to online.
To give you a more precise indication of which VPNs might be most suitable for you, we have outlined a few popular options:
Access blocked content
If you want to access content that is censored or otherwise blocked inside Russia, then ExpressVPN is the best VPN option for you.
Get online in Russia safely
The Russian government routinely surveils everyone's online activity and the punishment for breaking their rules can be serious.
Stream overseas content
If you want to unblock overseas content such as the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, and Amazon Prime video, the best option is ExpressVPN.
Large server network
If you are looking for a VPN that lets you switch to as many overseas IP addresses as possible while still enjoying VPN protection, then we would recommend VyprVPN.
If security matters to you and you and you want to do everything you can to use a VPN risk free, NordVPN offers a huge range of features as well as a strict no logs policy to ensure your security and privacy are protected.
How do I get a Russian VPN?
Once you have chosen the right VPN provider for you, the next step is to get it set up and working on your system. This may not be as easy as you might think.
Since the recent VPN ban in Russia, some of the VPNs on our list will have their websites blocked inside Russia.
However, this isn't a big problem as they all operate proxy websites that will not be blocked and a quick search on a (preferably non-Russian) search engine or a forum like Reddit should turn up one of these proxy address pretty quickly – just look for ‘ExpressVPN proxy website address‘.
If you are hyper-cautious because you are an active opponent to the Putin regime, we would probably advise that you try and download and install your VPN app while outside the country just to be on the safe side.
Consider using the free plan on ProtonVPN or a free trial elsewhere to protect your internet connection while signing up instead.
Once you have access to the website, it won't take you too long to get things up and running. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to help you, using ExpressVPN as an example (all VPNs will follow a similar process):
- Visit the ExpressVPN website and choose your preferred subscription package.
- Follow the online instructions to sign up.
- Download the ExpressVPN app – be sure to do this either from your chosen app store or from the ExpressVPN website.
- Open the app and log-in to your account using the details you given at the end of step 2.
- Connect to ExpressVPN by either clicking Quick Connect to connect to the fastest available server or choosing a server in your preferred location and then clicking Connect.
- Wait a few seconds for the connection to be established and then you can use the internet as usual, safe in the knowledge that your data is secure and private.
This process will work 99% of the time.
If you have any problems, the first thing to try is selecting a different server and trying to connect again. You won't usually have to try with more than one or two servers before things are working.
Alternatively, you can try different protocols in the settings area.
If the problem persists, the simplest thing is to contact customer support for assistance.
For users in Russia, we would also recommend ensuring that the kill switch feature is enabled. This can be done through the settings menu of most VPNs, including ExpressVPN.
This ensures that if your VPN connection does drop out for any reason, your data won't be exposed.
Should I use free VPNs in Russia?
The short answer to this question is no. The long answer is definitely no!
A quick online search will turn up hundreds of free VPNs, which claim to be the best options for users inside Russia and they may seem attractive, especially if you are on a budget.
But the stark reality is that using a free VPN presents a number of serious security issues and in a place like Russia, it is simply not worth rolling the dice like this for the sake of a few dollars a month.
The list of issues with free VPNs is a long one.
Firstly, they almost always come with service restrictions of one kind or another. This can be data limits or bandwidth caps which means you can only do so much on them a month and almost always exclude things like streaming and online games.
Very few VPNs offer Russian servers and most will only provide a handful of servers at most. These get deluged by users, which has an impact on service speeds too.
The difference between connection speeds on a free VPN and a paid-for VPN service can be quite astonishing.
VPNs cost money to operate and if you are running a free one, you need to cover your costs and generate profits one way or another.
The most common way is to collect and sell user data, often to customers such as the Russian government. This means that privacy is often a myth with free VPNs.
Other methods can include spamming users with adverts and even implanting malware into free VPN apps that can damage your devices and compromise your online security.
Many free VPN providers have also been linked with Communist China, an authoritarian regime with close links to Putin's Russia and a proven record of harvesting users internet data.
The list of issues with free VPN services just goes on and on.
They are just not worth the risk when there are premium VPNs out there that can guarantee security and privacy, boast features like a kill switch to give your control over your security, offer free trials and a 30 day money-back guarantee (or more), and only cost a couple of dollars of month to sign up for.
Should I use a Russian VPN provider?
We would caution against it.
Most Russian VPNs will comply with Russian law, which means that they will be censoring the same content that is already blocked in Russia. They are also likely to be sharing data with Russian government agencies when requested to do so.
Most Russian VPNs are relatively unknown but there is one, Kaspersky VPN, which has some international profile, largely due to its well known anti-virus stablemate.
Back in March 2019, the Russian government wrote to the ten most popular VPNs in Russia, demanding that they censor content in Russia in line with local law. While the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN ignored this ultimatum, Kaspersky VPN complied.
With censorship on their network and question-marks about the level of security and privacy they can offer their users, our strong advice to Russian internet users would be to avoid using Russian-based VPNs like Kaspersky VPN.
Do I need VPN in Russia?
If you are happy for the Putin Government to monitor your online activity and censor access to a huge range of online content, then no a VPN is not necessary.
But if you want uninterrupted access to the internet and any sort of online privacy and security, then you need the usual suite of online security tools of which a VPN is a key component.
The reality of the online world in Russia is bleak.
Opposition political figures, human rights campaigners, and digital rights activists are routinely targeted with cyber-attacks, arrest, detention, and violence.
There have been a number of legislative developments in Russia in recent years that have undermined online freedoms. These have included the demands on VPNs providers to censor the Government's blocked list of websites or otherwise be banned, which we referred to earlier in this guide.
There has also been ‘Yarovaya's Law‘, a pair of laws that are notionally counter-terrorist in nature but serve primarily to undermine the use of encrypted communications in Russia and increase the extent to which the authorities can access the internet data of any Russian citizen they choose.
The demands placed on internet service providers by the Russian state only serve to illustrate this.
They are required to store the content of voice calls, data, images and text messages for a minimum of six months and to store metadata (details about the sender and recipients of messages, the time and date and more) for at least three years.
Social media has been targeted in recent years too. LinkedIn has been blocked in Russia, as has Telegram, despite having a Russian owner. Other social media sites including Facebook and Twitter have also been threatened with the same.
The best summary of the state of online freedoms in Russia is provided by Freedom House's Freedom on the Net Report.
This report ranked Russia as ‘Not Free' and gave it a risible score of just 30/100 for internet freedom. A summary of their conclusions is that online freedom is already in a very bad place in Russia and it is getting worse.
In short, if you want to enjoy any degree of online freedom in Russia, you absolutely need a VPN.
Are VPNs legal in Russia?
Unauthorised VPNs are not legal in Russia and since authorised VPNs are not worth bothering with, the answer to this is effectively yes.
However, Russia is a huge country and resources are extremely stretched, which means the unless you are an opposition political figure or a human rights campaigner, the chances are that you will be fine using a VPN as long as you keep your head down.
However, if you are caught using one, the penalties can be severe, so caution is advised.
There is little doubt that if you want to use the internet in Russia freely and without censorship or surveillance, you need to be using a VPN.
In this guide, we have explained in detail why that is and outlined some of the main risks and threats to your privacy and security that exist in Russia.
A VPN alone is not a panacea. But as part of a suite of online security and privacy tools, it is a massive asset. With a VPN, you can ensure that your internet traffic and data is encrypted and effectively as anonymous as possible.
Choosing the best VPNs for Russia is not easy but our team of experts have done the hard work for you and we have narrowed the field down to the seven top VPNs on the market right now.
ExpressVPN is our number one overall recommendation, but as we have explained, the best VPN for you will depend on what you tend to use the internet for. We have outlined different recommendations for different purposes in this guide too.
They key takeaway from this guide is the importance of using a VPN in Putin's Russia. If you want to be secure and private online, it is essential.
Avoid a free VPN for the reasons we have outlined, but if you opt for one of the premium VPNs we have recommended in this guide, you won't go far wrong.