Internet Censorship in Russia
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the Kremlin has sought to dramatically restrict the free flow of information online, with the Prosecutor General’s Office ordering local ISPs to block over 25,000 websites.
ISPs have adopted various techniques to block content in the country, including HTTP man-in-the-middle interference and DNS manipulation, with varying degrees of success.
The most common approach has been DNS based filtering and RST packet injection during TLS handshakes, according to The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI). While officials often only identify a specific URL for blocking, the mechanisms used to restrict access by ISPs frequently mean the entire domain is rendered inaccessible.
Many of the websites identified for blocking since February 2022 are unrelated to the war, including gambling and adult websites. However, our analysis of blocked domains reveals a significant number were restricted because of content directly related to the conflict.
The banned sites are accessible via an online database maintained by the Russian NGO, Roskomsvoboda, at reestr.rublacklist.net.
From large international public broadcasters, such as the BBC, to local independent news outlets, almost 3,000 websites have been blocked since February. Social media websites, including Facebook and Instagram, have also been affected, alongside a huge variety of smaller websites.
The restrictions have had significant economic repercussions for the country, with the social media blocks costing the economy over $21.5 billion according to our estimates.
As a result of the widespread blocks, Russians are turning in increasing numbers to VPN services, despite official restrictions on their use in the country. Daily demand for VPNs has skyrocketed to over 2,000% higher than before February 24.
VPN access remains a sensitive issue in Russia. Use of the software is permitted but accessing blocked content is illegal. With 15 VPN services currently officially banned for not complying with government demands, it can be difficult to find a trustworthy VPN that still works in Russia.
This research documents the websites blocked in Russia related to the invasion and aims to shed light on the country’s evolving censorship practices.
We will continue to analyze the sites being blocked in Russia and update this page on a regular basis.
See the full list of blocked domains.