$6.67/mo over 15 Months
85Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
94 countries, 3,000+ servers
Whether you’re living in Russia or just traveling there — you need to know what’s the best VPN for Russia.
This is because Russia is catching up with China to become one of the most censored and surveilled countries on the planet.
To keep you connected, we’ve tested over 70 VPN services and picked out our favorite five VPNs that still work consistently in Russia — granting you free access to Telegram, LinkedIn, Dailymotion, and more.
Essential VPN Features for Russia
- Works reliably and consistently in Russia
- Obfuscation tools & stealthy VPN protocols
- VPN servers in nearby countries for faster speeds
- Strong privacy and security features
- Privacy-first logging policy & no IP or DNS leaks
- Fast download & upload speeds
Wondering why you should trust our reviews?
See How We Review VPNs.
The Best VPNs for Russia
$1.99/mo over 24 Months
85Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
$10.00/mo over 12 Months
72Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
$4.08/mo over 12 Months
63Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
$1.89/mo over 2 years
86Mbps same city speed
Based on a 100Mbps test connection
59 countries, 150+ servers
Is Using a VPN in Russia Illegal?
Using a VPN in Russia is not necessarily illegal, but the use of any ‘unauthorized’ VPN provider is indeed against the law.
The punishment for using an unauthorized VPN in Russia is 300,000 RUB ($5,100) for the user and 700,000 RUB ($12,000) for the VPN service.
However, a VPN provider must make a deal with the devil to gain legal status in Russia. To become an ‘authorized’ VPN provider, the company must cooperate with the Russian state and agree to blocking all websites contained in Russia’s extensive website blacklist, as well as agree to share user data with Russian security services.
As a result, running any ‘authorized’ VPN disallows you from accessing popular web services, like LinkedIn and Telegram, and allows your activity to be shared with Russian security services — making using a VPN for privacy pointless.
More worryingly, use of any ‘authorized’ VPN service would mean handing over your most personal information to a VPN provider that’s willing to cozy up to the autocratic Russian state.
Because of this, make sure to stick close to our five picks for the best VPN for Russia. When using any of our recommended VPN providers, it is very unlikely you’ll ever get in any sort of trouble.
If you want a more thorough examination of the legality of VPNs in Russia and other heavily restricted countries, take a look at our guide ‘Are VPNs Legal?’.
Why Are VPNs Banned in Russia?
VPNs are banned in Russia as part of a larger attempt to shut down the open internet.
This is a strategy primarily designed to make the internet’s information flow conform to the ideals of the Russian state.
The use of VPNs in Russia
In Russia, VPNs can be used to access online content that has been deemed incompatible with the views of the Russian government.
Content that is inaccessible without a VPN includes websites from the LGBT+ community, Wikipedia articles relating to suicide and drugs, as well as popular apps like LinkedIn, Dailymotion, and Telegram.
The difficulty of censoring the open internet
Unsurprisingly, Russia’s heavy-handed control of the internet has majorly backfired in the past.
In April 2018 Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications watchdog, blocked over 4 million IP addresses in an attempt to ban private messaging app Telegram — Telegram remained online while hundreds of unrelated websites and apps were unintentionally shut down.
The sites and services involved included MasterCard, Twitch, Viber, and popular e-commerce and online banking sites. It took over a month for these apps to be put back online. Not so easy presiding over an online dictatorship, after all.
If you wish to read more about the harms of online censorship and the ensuing collateral damage, check out our co-authored report into the UK’s overzealous web filters.
The Yarovaya Law
In a further attempt to identify and punish detractors, Russia’s parliament approved the Big Brother-esque Yarovaya Law in 2016.
This law requires all Russian telecom companies and ISPs to store detailed user communication records for six months and all connection metadata for three years, allowing the government to access records of everything you do online at any time.
In addition, promoting ‘extremism’ online is punishable by up to five years in prison. However, under the Yarovaya Law, ‘extremism’ includes modest protestations, including “humiliation of national dignity.” This is a broad term which leaves the law open to misuse by Russian officials who can determine what counts and what doesn’t on a whim.
Russia’s plan to domesticate the internet
More recently, Russia has initiated the final steps of its censorship master plan — to create its own domestic alternative to the global internet.
In November 2019, the aptly named ‘Sovereign Internet’ law came into force. This allows the Russian state to switch off Russia’s access to the worldwide web in the event of an “emergency.” Again, the term ‘emergency’ is left deliberately vague, granting the Kremlin free rein to determine what event counts.
Instead, Russia plans to create and operate its own domestically-controlled internet, which it claims has shown to be achievable in testing. As part of this, Russia even plans to write its own version of Wikipedia by 2023, in order to provide citizens with more ‘reliable’ information regarding the country’s history.
Details on the project are mostly unknown, but it is clear that this is Russia’s last stand to plug the holes of its so-far failed attack on internet freedom.
Effectively, this physical disconnection from the worldwide web would mean that VPNs would no longer work. This would be a major benefit to the Kremlin, with VPNs proving a major thorn in its side by allowing users to protect their online activity and bypass current website and app restrictions.
This is all yet to play out, so don’t worry — our five recommended VPNs for Russia still work with no problem.
What Websites and Apps Are Banned in Russia?
The most popular websites and apps that are banned in Russia are:
LinkedIn, Telegram, and Dailymotion have all been blocked in Russia after refusing to agree to its ‘on Personal Data’ law. Under this law, any internet company with users in the country must agree to store its data on servers within Russian borders.
This has been enforced by the state under the guise of ‘protecting Russian internet users’. Rather, it is evidently an attempt to create an everlasting pool of Russian user data to allow the Kremlin to surveil and control its population.
There are risks that more impactful companies will be banned in the near future, with tech juggernauts YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram the latest to receive block threats.
These companies are likely to receive bans due to their unwillingness to store Russian user data on Russian servers, as well as reportedly refusing to open offices within Russia.
These latest threats are symbolic of the control that the Russian government exhibits over internet companies, as well as the prioritization of political matters over the free and open internet.
How to Unblock Websites in Russia
We get it — not being able to access essential apps like LinkedIn, Dailymotion, and Telegram in Russia can be really frustrating.
To get around the blocks, there are a number of circumvention tools that you can use to regain access to your favorite apps and services.
We’ve listed our three favorite ways to access blocked websites in Russia, below.
Use a VPN
There’s no doubt about it — using a VPN is the best way to access blocked websites in Russia.
The top VPN providers use clever obfuscation tools to scramble VPN data and make it seem like regular HTTPS web traffic. This is essential for Russia, as the government actively seeks out ‘unauthorized’ VPN traffic and attempts to thwart it.
On top of this, a VPN will allow you to choose a desired server location from around the world. This means you can mask your true location and appear to be connecting from any specific city or country of your choosing.
By shedding your true IP address and replacing it with the IP of the VPN server, you’re free to access LinkedIn, Dailymotion, and Telegram without any trouble. The encryption techniques employed by our recommended VPN providers mean you’re kept hidden from the prying eyes of the Russian government, too.
Use a Web Proxy
Using a web proxy is a straightforward and quick way to unblock certain websites in Russia.
In short, a web proxy visits and decodes a web page on your behalf, before forwarding its contents on to you.
But you should never use a proxy for any activity that involves sensitive information or which could be deemed punishable by the Russian government.
This is because a web proxy does not encrypt your online traffic, meaning your ISP, the government, or whoever can monitor your activity.
But a web proxy will be good enough if you’re only in Russia for a short time and just want a simple way to access your LinkedIn profile.
Our testing has shown the most effective proxy to be Shadowsocks, which uses the SOCKS5 internet protocol.
If you want to read more about web proxies and their potential security flaws, check out our Proxy vs VPN guide.
Use the Tor Browser
Tor, or The Onion Router, earns its name through its method of encryption. The onion moniker derives from the fact that your traffic is routed through many ‘layers’ of encryption, which work to ‘peel’ away any identifiable data.
Tor is a lot more secure than using a web proxy, but it has a few major issues which make a VPN almost always a better choice for unblocking websites in Russia.
Firstly, Tor’s several layers of encryption make your web traffic painfully slow. So slow, in fact, that anything more intensive that sending emails and viewing social media will be a chore.
Secondly, Tor’s decentralized network means you can’t select a desired location. As a result, your public IP address while running Tor is dependent on whatever randomized nodes that you happen to connect to, making it an unreliable option for unblocking websites and apps in Russia.
Tor’s only real use comes with its ability for at-risk journalists or activists to use the web anonymously.
If that doesn’t apply to you, then opt for one of our recommended VPN services instead. Simple as that.
How to Set up a VPN in Russia
Installing and using a VPN client in Russia is easy, so long as you follow the steps in this guide.
Just make sure you install your chosen VPN before traveling to Russia.
Then, to install and use a VPN for Russia, follow the steps below.
- Visit the VPN provider’s website and sign up.
- Locate the ‘Download VPN’ section and click the button for your desired platform, e.g. ‘Windows’.
- Open the downloaded file, then follow the steps.
- Launch the app and input your username and password.
- Ensure OpenVPN is the VPN protocol selected, or a proprietary one, like Astrill’s StealthVPN.
- Ensure the kill switch is enabled, as well as any bespoke obfuscation technology, like Surfshark’s ‘NoBorders’ feature.
- Connect to a Russian or nearby country’s server, such as Ukraine.
All done. Continue to use your device as you normally would.
We know, however, that being able to download and install a VPN before entering Russia is not always possible. But don’t worry — all of our best VPN for Russia recommendations provide alternative links that allow you to download and install the app even when inside Russia. Due to the secretive and ever-changing nature of these links, just contact the customer support of your chosen VPN service to get one that works.
What Is the Best VPN Protocol to Use in Russia?
Like with all other VPN connections, you should be using OpenVPN in Russia.
OpenVPN remains our preferred VPN protocol by providing the best balance of speed and security, and is constantly being improved thanks to its open-source community.
The protocol may not be clearly labeled in your VPN app, though, so look out for UDP and TCP. UDP and TCP are communication protocols that work on OpenVPN, with UDP maximizing speed and TCP maximizing security.
Due to the delicate and potentially illegal activity of using a VPN in Russia, you should seek absolute security and use TCP wherever possible.
Or, if your VPN provider has its own in-house protocol for censored regions, like Astrill’s StealthVPN, then make sure to use this instead. These are often built on top of OpenVPN, so you can rest assured that it is still an ultra-reliable option.
Which VPN Server Should I Connect to When in Russia?
The best countries to connect to when in Russia are:
These are the closest countries to Russia that are also popular server locations for VPN providers.
Connecting to a nearby VPN server in Russia helps minimize any potential internet speed loss, as your internet traffic has to travel less of a distance — avoiding any timely diversions.
To save you the hassle, we’ve listed the availability of nearby VPN servers of our top picks for the best VPN for Russia in the table, below.
Although we do wish ExpressVPN provided a Russian server, we are pleased that it gave it up in order to avoid working with the Russian government, especially given the abundant availability of ExpressVPN servers in neighboring countries.
How to Get a Russian IP Address From Anywhere
Getting a Russian IP address outside of Russia can be really handy if you’re away from Russia but want to keep access to your favorite movies, music, or podcasts.
Using a VPN is far-and-away the easiest and most effective way to get a Russian IP address outside of Russia.
But be careful — major VPN providers, like ExpressVPN, have removed their servers from Russia in accordance with the latest round of VPN bans in Russia. As a result, you will not be able to use any of the banned VPN services to obtain a Russian IP address outside of Russia.
All the rest of our picks provide a server in Russia, though, so make sure to choose Surfshark, Astrill, Windscribe, or PrivateVPN if you require a Russian IP.
In order to get a Russian IP address from anywhere in the world, follow the steps below.
- Sign up, download, and install a VPN service which has Russian-based servers. In this example, we’ve used Surfshark.
- In the VPN’s app settings, ensure the kill switch is enabled and OpenVPN is the protocol in use.
- If the VPN has any distinct features for highly-censored regions, like Surfshark’s ‘NoBorders’, enable these.
- In the VPN app’s list of server locations, select Russia and connect.
- Double check your VPN is running successfully by using an IP lookup tool. Our favorite is BrowserLeaks.
If your IP address is displaying from Russia, then you’re all set. You can now access and enjoy Russia-exclusive content.
10 Popular VPNs for Russia Compared
See which VPNs perform best, and which perform worst, in the key indicators for Russia, in the table below.
What Is the Best Free VPN for Russia?
The best free VPNs for Russia are:
These free VPNs can be really convenient if you just want to quickly access a blocked web page or to test what’s capable with a VPN in Russia before splurging on a more premium service.
Our recommendations provide the same clever obfuscation tools that the top paid VPN providers offer, without the price tag. They aren’t as consistent, though, so you will be left frustrated on occasion.
Windscribe and Tunnelbear do come with data caps, but Windscribe’s 10GB allowance should be plenty if you just want quick unblocking of a low-bandwidth site, like LinkedIn. Tunnelbear’s stingy 500MB monthly allowance is a pain to live with, though.
ProtonVPN comes with an unlimited data allowance, which is really impressive for a free VPN service. There is a catch, however, as ProtonVPN’s free tier only offers three server locations. The Netherlands is the closest, so you’ll see a noticeable drop in your internet speeds when connecting from Russia.
Make sure not to diverge from our top three recommendations, though, as some free VPN services cannot be trusted.
Our independent investigation found that over 500 million people could be using unsafe free VPNs which hand over their personal data.
What Is the Best VPN for Streaming and Netflix in Russia?
The best VPNs for streaming and Netflix in Russia are:
As well as being able to consistently bypass Russia’s own censorship blocks, these VPN services reliably unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+. These VPNs also maintain blazing fast speeds — essential for buffer-free streaming sessions.
PrivateVPN jumps above Surfshark in our recommendations for streaming in Russia, though, due to its faster speeds and clearer labeling of streaming servers.
How Can I Post Anonymously in Russia?
If you’re an activist or journalist in Russia, the laws determining what counts as promoting ‘extremism’ can make exercising online free speech in Russia a scary prospect.
There have been many instances of severely harsh punishments imposed on the authors of social media posts who speak against the Russian government.
To preserve your right to free speech without the worry of being arrested, follow our quick best-practice tips, listed below.
Use a pseudonym
This shouldn’t come as a surprise.
No level of encryption or digital hygiene can hide who you are if you post under your real name. Pick a fake one that can’t be linked back to you, instead.
Use a VPN
Even if you maintain a watertight alternative life under your newly created self, your location can be traced from your IP address. A VPN stops this.
A VPN keeps your browsing activity private by encrypting your internet traffic, routing it through a secure tunnel, and masking your true IP address.
This means that neither your ISP nor the Russian government can monitor your internet activity or work out your location.
It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. Just make sure to use one of the VPN services we recommend for Russia to ensure you stay out of sight.
Use the Tor Browser
Much like a VPN, the Tor browser seeks to anonymize your online activity and keep you hidden from nosy ISPs or governments.
Tor works by encrypting your online communications and relaying your traffic through randomized nodes on the network, all of which are voluntarily provided.
Tor is a really popular option for those seeking digital privacy and anonymity in Russia. But this hasn’t gone unnoticed. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), has unsuccessfully attempted to ‘de-anonymize’ the Tor network, seeking to reveal the true identities of the activists and journalists who rely on it for their safety.
Tor comes with its usual baggage of problems, like its sluggish speeds. But if you’re unable to access a VPN or require a free service, using Tor is a great choice for posting anonymously in Russia.
Use common sense
Don’t geo-tag your content, don’t mention nearby places, don’t discuss events from your personal life, don’t keep a local record of your written content. This list could be infinitely long.
In short, if you feel just the smallest hunch that something could be used at a later time to personally identify you, whether by an online hacker or in a court of law, then don’t do it.
About the Author