Russia’s Ban on VPNs Is Set To Take Effect in March

Penka Hristovska Penka Hristovska
Published on: February 7, 2024

Russia’s communications watchdog is moving ahead with its plan to block Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) starting March 1 this year. During an event in Yekaterinburg on Monday, Yekaterina Mizulina of the Safe Internet League confirmed rumors about the Russian government’s plans to block VPNs, stating, “Yes … that’s most likely the case.”

Mizulina acknowledged the technical challenge of completely blocking all VPNs out there and said the government intended to target the most widely used services.

She also warned about using free VPN services, saying: “VPNs, especially those that are free, they’re a total portal into hell … It’s a big black hole in your device” and argued that by banning them, the Russian government would be protecting “people and gadgets.”

The news was also confirmed by a source in the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor).

“In accordance with the law, any tools that allow bypassing blocked or illegal content have been banned in Russia starting February 2020. VPN services fall under such tools if access to illegal resources is not limited when they are applied,” the watchdog said.

Last year in October, Russian senator Artem Sheikin was one of the first to talk about Russia’s decision to ban VPNs.

“From March 1, 2024, an order will come into force to block VPN services providing access to sites banned in Russia,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency RIA.

Sheikin said that, among other things, it’s particularly important for Russia to block access to platforms owned by Meta, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

“I would like to note that it is especially important to restrict citizens’ access to the products of Meta, which is recognized as an extremist organization,” Sheikin said, highlighting that this order applies to VPNs that provide access to these platforms.