December 01, 2019

Roskmomnadzor Strikes At VPNs, Again


Roskmomnadzor Strikes At VPNs, Again
iPhone resting on top of a Macbook keyboard. SimonWaldherr, Wikimedia Commons.

On July 4, the Russian version of Apple's App Store notified four Virtual Private Network (VPN) companies they would no longer be available on their platform due to pressure from the service supervising communications, Roskomnadzor.

When Russia's War on Ukraine began, the Kremlin cracked down on internet use within its borders. Local and foreign news websites and social media platforms, including all Meta platforms and X/Twitter, were banned in the country. In response, many Russians turned to VPNs to bypass government restrictions and surveillance, and to access forbidden content. 

Roskomnadzor had blocked multiple VPN servers even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, the war has fueled the Kremlin's urgency to tackle any access to independent news sources and "unfriendly" internet content. Proton, Nord, Red Shield, and Le VPN are the latest victims of Roskomnadzor bans. 

In an email shared by Red Shield VPN on X, the App Review said it removed the application from the App Store "because it includes content that is illegal in Russia, which is not in compliance with the App Review Guidelines." The App Review concluded their notification with a suggestion to consult with an attorney or contact Roskomnazor directly.

Since these VPN services are still available in other countries, Red Shield VPN suggested that Russian users change their Apple ID region to continue to access the app. However, experts warned Mediazona that connecting to VPNs will become harder for regular users as Russia attempts to replace global platforms with national copies.

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