Russian Internet Censorship Spending Since 2022

Russia's internet censorship agencies have increased spending by 63% since February 2022, with many of the largest increases occurring along Ukraine's border.
Internet Censorship Spending Report header image showing a Roskomnadzor flag
Samuel Woodhams
Agata Michalak
Samuel Woodhams & Agata Michalak
  • Since February 2022, Russia’s censorship agencies have increased spending by over 63%
  • Roskomnadzor’s federal agency increased spending by 56%, totaling almost $14M since February 2022
  • The internet censorship agency’s Southern Federal Department, which borders Ukraine, saw the largest increase in expenditure of any federal district (865%)
  • The General Radio Frequency Center’s projected spending increased by 78%
  • Roskomnadzor’s local office in Lipetsk increased spending by over 8,000%, the most of any agency, followed by departments in Kostroma (313%) and Smolensk (202%)
  • The most expensive contracts include AI surveillance equipment, an overhaul of Roskomnadzor’s digital infrastructure, and Russian-made servers that use Intel processors
  • The tech companies that profited the most from Roskomnadzor’s spending include: Rostelecom ($6M), E-Soft Ltd ($4M), Helio-Master ($1.5M), and Infosystem Jet ($1.1M).

Russia's Internet Censorship System

Since February 2022, Russia’s internet censorship agencies have blocked access to thousands of websites, disrupted access to VPNs, and accelerated attempts to detach from the global internet.

This heightened internet censorship has occurred against a backdrop of international sanctions that have significantly hampered Russia’s tech sector. Over 1,000 foreign companies have ceased operations in the country, while 100,000 IT specialists reportedly left Russia in 2022 alone.[1]

This report reveals the financial cost of Russia’s attack on internet freedom via analysis of almost 4,000 official procurement documents. It shows that Russia’s internet censorship agencies have increased spending by more than 63% since February 2022 compared with the equivalent prior period.

Our analysis takes into consideration Roskomnadzor’s federal, regional and local departments, as well as its subsidiary, The General Radio Frequency Center. Since February 2022, their combined spending has exceeded $57 million dollars.

Many of the largest increases in spending occurred at the local and regional level, particularly in areas near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Exporting the country’s information controls into newly acquired Ukrainian territory has been a pivotal strategy for Russia, which has taken control of telecommunication infrastructure, blocked access to Western media, and frequently restricted access to the internet in regions under their control.

Data included in this report was accessed from Russia’s official procurement website via a VPN and only takes into consideration spending covered by relevant transparency laws. Other spending activities, such as salaries, and invitations to tender that had not been completed are not included.

Some costs associated with the contracts will be paid across several years. For clarity, we have included the total price at the point the contract was finalized. They are, however, subject to change in the future.

The Main Radio Frequency Center is governed by a different transparency regulation to Roskomnadzor. As such, figures associated with the agency in this report show their planned expenditure rather than finalized contracts which were unavailable.

Who Censors the Internet in Russia?

Roskomnadzor, or the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, is the Russian government agency responsible for controlling and monitoring access to mass media in the country.

It has jurisdiction over the country’s internet blocklist, implements telecom surveillance measures, and controls regulations regarding personal data. It is part of larger Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and has various offices at the regional and local level.

Roskomnadzor’s subsidiary, the Main Radio Frequency Center, is a government-controlled corporation known as a “state unitary enterprise”. It’s responsible for monitoring and implementing many of the rules and regulations made by Roskomnadzor. It employs around 5,000 people and has eight branches across the country.

According to an investigation by Radio Free Liberty Europe, the agency has established an internal messaging system called the “Operational Interactive Office” which links its own digital surveillance activities with “Russia’s leading security and law enforcement agencies”.[2]

Internet Censorship Agency Spending

Russia’s internet censorship efforts are spread across regional, local and federal offices. The central agency spent the most across the entire time period, totaling $22.7M or 71% of the total spend excluding the Main Radio Frequency Center.

Since February 2022, Roskomnadzor’s central office increased spending by almost 60% and is responsible for many of the most expensive contracts discussed below.

The internet censorship organisation also has offices at the federal district level which are responsible for monitoring social media activity and managing telecoms across the eight federal districts.

Map showing the spending changes across Roskomnadzor's federal districts

Map showing spending changes across Roskomnadzor’s federal departments.

As the map shows, the largest increases in spending occurred in the West and South of the country near contested regions in the Caucusus and along the border with Ukraine, highlighted in orange above.

Though smaller when compared with the central agency’s expenditure, these rapid increases demonstrate the increased need for resources in areas that have become critical to Russia’s information controls and broader internet censorship efforts.

The reduction in spending in the East of the country may have been to help facilitate the growth in the West.

The following table shows the spending changes across Russia’s eight federal districts

A similar trend is evident in local agencies’ expenditure. While smaller again in total amount spent, several of these areas have experienced critical challenges to the government in recent months.

Lipetsk, for example, was recently the site where Wagner mercenaries reached during their mutiny. There have been protests in Smolensk calling for peace in the past year, while Kaliningrad Oblast is the westernmost region of the country and borders Lithuania and Poland.

Heightened internet censorship in these regions has been critical for the authorities to maintain their grip on the population and stifle any potential criticism.

In September 2022, nearly 160,000 records from Roskomandzor’s local office in Bashkortostan were leaked. In its coverage, the New York Times revealed how the office was responsible for tracking “the online activities of hundreds of people and organizations”.

It gathered information about government critics and identified shifting political opinions on social media. It compiled dossiers on independent media outlets and online influencers who shared information unfavorable to the government that might gain traction with the Russian public – The New York Times.[3]

Our analysis shows Roskomnadzor’s office in Bashkortostan increased spending by 87% since February 2022.

The following table details the local Roskomnadzor departments that have increased expenditure the most since February 2022.

Southern Federal District Spending

The Southern Federal District is one of Russia’s eight federal districts. It is home to over 16 million people and borders Ukraine in the west and Kazakhstan to the east.

It now borders much of the disputed territories of Ukraine, and includes Crimea, which is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

Close up map of Russia's Southern Federal District

Map showing Russia’s Southern Federal District and contested Ukrainian land

The increased spending by Russia’s internet censorship agency in this region points to the increased demand it has faced in maintaining control of its ever expanding reach and contested borders.

In total, the agency has spent more than $600,000 since February 2022, compared to just $66,000 before.

The following table details the most expensive contracts signed by Roskomandazor’s Southern Federal office since February 2022.

Due to international sanctions and the government’s wish to ‘Russify’ the country’s digital infrastructure, many of the products listed are likely replacements for technology previously made by firms based in the West.

However, details within the contracts also show that a complete decoupling is yet to be in effect. The servers referenced in the most expensive contract use Intel processors, for example.

Intel suspended all business operations Russia in April 2022. However, their technology remains widely available through grey markets and re-sellers.[4]

While the contracts analyzed detail the types of technology being bought, they don’t specify exactly how the technology will be used.

To access the original and translated versions of the contracts highlighted in this report, please email

Most Expensive Contracts

Across the entire country, the 10 most expensive contracts finalised after February 24, 2022 amounted to over $13 million, accounting for 40% of the total Roskomnadzor spending.

The contracts were predominantly executed by the Roskomnadzor Federal Agency, with nine out of 10 contracts attributed to this agency.

The following table shows the 10 most expensive contracts signed by Roskomnadzor since February 2022.

Several of the contracts appear to be directly related to the conflict. The most expensive listed is a contract between the Roskomnadzor Federal Agency and The General Radio Frequency Center to carry out digital surveys in the occupied Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

The contract outlines a variety of tests to be conducted by the Main Radio Frequency Center, including the examination of radio, TV and satellite signals across the regions.

Roskomnadzor’s central office has also prioritized the purchase of server equipment, as outlined in its contract with the IT company Helio Master. The contract, worth over $1 million, is for Graviton Server and Aerodisk Vostok Data Storage systems.

Like the servers bought in the Southern Federal District, the Graviton server relies on processors made by Intel according to the manufacturer’s website.[5]

The data storage system, on the other hand, makes use of Russian-made Elbrus processors.[6]

In late 2022 and 2023 the Roskomnadzor Federal Agency collaborated with a Russian company E.Soft to expand its Unified Information System.

The contract specifically highlights the need to expand the register of resources containing any “calls for mass riots, extremist activities or participation in mass events”.

This indicates the technology is likely to be used to monitor, store and analyze citizens’ online activity with the aim of censoring and clamping down on any dissent.

Main Radio Frequency Center

The Main Radio Frequency Center is regulated by different laws to Roskomnadzor due to its status as a unitary enterprise. As such, information regarding its procurement also includes planned purchases that may not have been completed.

However, in actuality, the majority of the planned procurement does appear to have been completed.

The following table details the five most expensive contracts completed by the Main Radio Frequency Center.

The provision of information security services was the most expensive completed procurement listing at $1.7 million.

Although full details of the finalized agreement have not been updated online, some of the services listed in the draft agreement include identifying, responding to and preventing cyber threats, DNS control and protection service, and monitoring vulnerabilities of IT systems.

The second and third most expensive procurement listings are for the supply and delivery of measuring receivers and spectrum analyzers. The draft agreements reveal regional branches in the Southern and North Caucasus Federal Districts as well as the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol are consignees.

These listings are part of a larger wave of similar procurement activity. The products can be used for building mobile infrastructure and to locate drone operators and to determine the launch and control sites of the drones.[7]

The Oculus system is reportedly capable of scanning more than 200,000 images online per day. Officials have said it will be used to monitor the organization of protests, anti-war dissent, and “LGBT propaganda”.[8]

Though its accuracy is likely to be called into question, the technology has the potential to radically automate Russia’s internet censorship efforts.

For additional information regarding all the contracts included in this report, see the internet censorship spending data sheet.


To analyse the spending of Roskomnadzor and its subsidiaries, we downloaded data from Zakupki, the official procurement information system of the Russian government, dated between October 14 2020 and July 6 2023.

We downloaded contract data involving Roskomnadzor agencies and, as contract data for its subsidiary, The General Radio Frequency Center, was not available for download, procurement data was used as a substitute.

Some local Roskomnadzor offices were excluded due to a lack of expenditure, with several restricted in their procurement activities due to relevant procurement legislation.

We used Google and Yandex translation services throughout and used Bloomberg’s currency exchange to determine the dollar amount.

The authors of all our investigations abide by the journalists’ code of conduct.

Main image: Marchers with a rainbow LGBT flag, St Petersburg, Russia. May 1, 2019. Credit: Shutterstock.