Best VPN for Russia

Russia is an intriguing country known for its cold winters and love of vodka. It’s the world’s largest nation, sharing borders with many countries in Europe and northern Asia. It may be run by a dodgy government, but you can’t take away its culture, heritage and beauty. Still, if you’re going to go online, you should use one of our best VPN for Russia picks to stay safe.

Using a virtual private network is a no-brainer. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can’t escape online dangers, such as cybercrime. Plus, there are geoblocks to contend with. When it comes to Russia, though, there’s censorship to bypass and other reasons that make it a sensible idea to protect yourself with a VPN.

Best VPN for Russia 2019

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$ per month
top features
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  2. /month
    • PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin
    • 5 Simultaneous connections
    • Unlimited bandwidth
    • Can access Netflix US
    • Allows torrenting
    • No-logging policy
  3. Visit ExpressVPNExpressVPN Review
  1. 2
  2. /month
    • Credit card
    • 6 Simultaneous connections
    • Unlimited bandwidth
    • Can access Netflix US
    • Allows torrenting
    • No-logging policy
  3. Visit NordVPNNordVPN Review
  1. 3
  2. /month
    • PayPal, Credit card
    • 7 Simultaneous connections
    • Unlimited bandwidth
    • Can access Netflix US
    • Allows torrenting
    • No-logging policy
  3. Visit CyberghostCyberghost Review
  1. 4
  2. /month
    • PayPal, Credit card, UnionPay
    • 5 Simultaneous connections
    • Unlimited bandwidth
    • Can access Netflix US
    • Allows torrenting
    • No-logging policy
  3. Visit VyprVPNVyprVPN Review
  1. 5
  2. /month
    • PayPal, Credit card
    • 5 Simultaneous connections
    • Unlimited bandwidth
    • Can access Netflix US
    • Allows torrenting
    • No-logging policy
  3. Visit TorguardTorguard Review

Online Censorship in Russia

Internet censorship is prevalent in many countries. It’s worse in some than others, though. For example, China has one of the worst forms of online censorship in the world via the Great Firewall of China. Although Russia’s online world isn’t as bad, it certainly has restrictions in place, and internet freedom is declining consistently.

Russian authorities have developed and implemented laws that allow them to restrict access to certain websites and content. This can include content related to the political opposition, the conflict in Ukraine, and the LGBT community. 

Several agencies are able to make decisions on what gets blocked, such as Roskomnadzor, the Federal Drug Control Service and the Prosecutor General’s Office. Content that falls into certain categories can be blocked without a court order.

That includes content related to suicide information, child sexual abuse, drug propaganda, copyright violations, extremism, information about young victims of crimes and unsanctioned public actions or rallies. Sites that contain content related to issues such as corruption, pornography and religious beliefs can be blocked, too.

Other content can be blocked with a court order, and internet service providers (ISPs) have to consult a “blacklist” of banned websites. However, the guidelines on what should be blocked are often lacking, and ISPs often carry out extensive blocks to avoid punishment. 

A number of websites were blocked in 2017 after they were deemed “undesirable” under a 2015 law aimed at organizations that the Kremlin accuses of instigating political dissent. Internet freedom promoter Roskomsvoboda monitors censorship and found that more than 10 million websites were blocked in 2018.

Local ISPs were ordered to block 8,000 pirate websites in 2017 and certain laws were amended that allowed the blocking of more than 600 pirate mirror websites in 2018. The movie industry is the driving force, but the blocking aims to combat copyright infringement of music, software, books and TV shows.

Social Media and Messaging Apps in Russia

Many social media and messaging apps have fallen victim to Russia’s strict online world. Telegram was blocked by a court order in 2018 because it didn’t comply with the Yarovaya Law

That law requires online services that offer encryption to assist authorities with decoding the encrypted data. Telegram offers a service where people can encrypt text messages, which has been accused of being used for terrorism.

Telegram tried to overcome the blocking, but the new hosting websites were targeted, too. That meant popular websites, such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services became blocked, as well. 

At one point, 8 million IP addresses that belonged to leading hosting providers were blocked, which in turn affected online services for banks, stores and airlines. Although many of them have been unblocked, the list still remains large. 

Despite Russia’s efforts in blocking Telegram, though, it is still accessible. However, the government has blocked other platforms, such as LinkedIn, Blackberry Messenger, Line, Zello and WeChat.

These blocks were done under the Federal Law on Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information because the companies had failed to register as disseminators of information. After registering, authorities would have been able to access their data.

LinkedIn was also blocked in 2016 because it failed to transfer the processing of Russian citizens’ personal data to Russian territory. Russian law requires domestic and foreign companies to store the personal data of Russian citizens on Russian servers. Companies that refuse can face a fine or be blocked.

Kaspersky Labs had to move some of its data centers because of Russia’s laws, too. More recently, Facebook and Twitter have been given nine months to move Russian users’ data to servers within the country.

The Russian VPN Ban

In 2017, Russia began blocking VPN services. Providers that had so far enabled users to access prohibited content would be blocked unless it agreed to restrict users from visiting banned websites. If the provider agreed, they could continue to operate in the country.

Most refused to comply, and some ignored the request altogether. The law was then amended to impose fines on non-compliant VPN services and other anonymizers. Still, the law wasn’t implemented well.

In another attempt in 2019, Roskomnadzor sent emails to VPN providers, ordering them to implement website-blocking mechanisms or become blocked

None of the VPN providers that were approached were willing to cooperate, though, as that would essentially mean logging users’ activity, too. Many shut down their Russian servers. Our piece dedicated to the Russian VPN ban goes into more detail.

Online Surveillance in Russia

Aside from Russian authorities having access to user data with the Yarovaya Law, legislation that allows authorities to conduct intrusive surveillance is ever-increasing. 

The law on Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information was amended to prohibit users from being anonymous on social media and communication platforms. User accounts must be connected to real identities, but it has been difficult to implement.

Online communications data, which includes text, video and audio, must be stored for up to six months. Online metadata must be kept for up to one year, too. Authorities are able to access the data without the need for a court order.

The Russian government also uses the System of Operative-Search Measures (SORM) for online surveillance. ISPs are required to install SORM technology that allows the monitoring of internet traffic. If a provider fails to comply with the requirements, it can be fined or lose its license. 

SORM uses deep-packet-inspection technology that allows the Federal Security Service (FSB) to directly eavesdrop on communications. It needs a warrant, but it does not have to be shown, so communications can be secretly intercepted.

Plus, the government is thought to use its surveillance capabilities to monitor activists, journalists and opposition members. Our best VPN for the UK and best VPN for the U.S. pieces show other countries that engage in intrusive surveillance.

Freedom of Speech Online in Russia

Although the Russian constitution provides for freedom of speech, there are other laws that restrict it.

Anyone deemed as provoking separatism or extremism online can be punished with up to five years imprisonment under the Russian criminal code. Plus, incitement to hatred will result in six years imprisonment. 

Just opening such a case can result in the accused being added to a list of extremists. The Federal Service for Financial Monitoring maintains the list, and anyone on it can be restricted from certain professions and have their bank account frozen, even if they weren’t convicted. The definition of extremism is broad, too.

Defamation and calls for terrorism are also punished under the criminal code. The administrative code forbids spreading false information about the Soviet Union in World War II and displaying Nazi or other extremist organizations’ symbols. 

More than 1,000 criminal cases have been filed for online activity, such as social media posts, and 98 of those required a prison sentence. Many users have been prosecuted for criticizing religion, particularly the Russian Orthodox Church. 

In one case, a 19-year-old student was charged with inciting hate speech after he likened Game of Thrones character Jon Snow to Jesus Christ. His computer was seized by police, and he was put on the extremist list and faced the possibility of a five-year prison sentence. There have been similar cases, too, so be careful of what you post online.

LGBT activists can be seen as promoting nontraditional sexual relations, resulting in punishment for their online expression. One activist shared information about a group that advocates for access to health and sexual information. They were convicted and fined 50,000 Russian rubles ($760).

What Makes a VPN the Best for Russia

You could just choose a provider from those in our VPN reviews, but you need to make sure it is suitable for Russia. For starters, the provider needs to have great security to protect you from online dangers and keep you hidden from intrusive surveillance.

It should also have a kill switch included. That will sever your connection if the VPN fails, keeping your sensitive data secure. Along with that, it should honor your online privacy. The service should have a solid no-logs policy in place, which basically means it doesn’t keep a record of your online activities.

To bypass Russia’s censorship, you’ll need to pick one with a good server network. The more servers there are in different countries, the better your chance of finding one to suit your needs. 

That also counts for getting past geoblocks. For example, if you want to watch Netflix U.S. and you’re not in the country, you’re going to need a U.S. IP address. By connecting to a server within the U.S. via a VPN, you’ll get access. Our best VPN for Netflix guide has some dedicated recommendations.

If you want to access content that’s restricted to Russia, you’re going to need servers within the country. Due to the VPN ban, many providers have shut their Russian servers down. There are still some that have servers there, but that may mean they have complied with Russia’s rules. 

To make sure you’re not constantly waiting for content to load, you need to choose one that has good speed. Unlimited bandwidth will ensure you don’t hit a data-usage cap, too. Both of those features are important if you want to do some streaming or torrenting.

Other features you should consider include what devices it supports, its user-friendliness and how many devices you can connect to simultaneously. Plus, good customer service is handy to have, and how much the service costs may influence your final decision.

Best VPN for Russia: ExpressVPN

We’ve given ExpressVPN the Russian crown because of its excellent all-round service and strong security. It is the best VPN available, and we have no doubt you will be protected with it. It provides security with AES 256-bit encryption, and you can increase that if you want to. There’s a built-in kill switch, which is enabled by default, and it doesn’t keep logs. 

It has more than 3,000 servers available in 94 countries, giving you plenty to choose from for circumventing blocks. ExpressVPN used to have servers within Russia, but it has since removed them, so you won’t be able to access Russian-restricted content. 

You’ll have no problem with speed, as it’s the fastest VPN on the market and also provides unlimited bandwidth. Those features — and the fact that it can get into any streaming platform — helped it take the top spot in our best VPN for streaming comparison. It allows for torrenting, too. Read our ExpressVPN review for a better look at the service.

Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN

It is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux. Plus, there are browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. You can connect up to five devices at the same time, too.

It’s easy to use, and it is the perfect choice if you don’t have much experience with VPNs. Once you’ve installed ExpressVPN, it’ll do almost everything for you. All you need to do is make sure you’re connected to a suitable server.

If you need help, there’s a useful knowledgebase online for self-help. There’s also live chat and email available 24/7. Although the staff is helpful whichever route you take, the email support is better when it comes to more in-depth issues. 

A downside to ExpressVPN is its price. It’s one of the most expensive providers we’ve come across, but it’s also the best VPN Cloudwards has reviewed. You can take some of that cost away by opting for a longer plan. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ve got nothing to lose.

Pros:

  • Excellent security
  • Fast
  • Accesses all streaming platforms

Cons:

  • Expensive
Starts from $ 666 per month
Save 49 %

NordVPN

NordVPN is another great provider that often gets a mention in our VPN articles. It’s security is among some of the best on the market and includes the use of its double-hop servers, which offer more security to the VPN tunnel. There’s a kill switch and a strict no-logs policy for extra peace of mind.

It has a huge number of servers (more than 5,000), and they are scattered throughout 60 countries, meaning you should have no problem connecting to one that suits. Like ExpressVPN, though, NordVPN used to have servers in Russia but discontinued them after Russia’s VPN rules were put into place.

Its speeds are good, but it can become slow over long distances. That is the main reason it lost the top spot. In all other areas, NordVPN is comparable to our winner, ExpressVPN. You can read more about that in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN piece, though. 

Still, there are no bandwidth caps in place, and it can get into most streaming services, including Netflix. Plus, NordVPN is our best VPN for torrenting, in case that’s something you want to do. Read more about the provider in our full NordVPN review.

Other Reasons We Like NordVPN

NordVPN can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, with easy-to-use clients. You can connect up to six devices at the same time, too.

If you run into any problems, you can use the handy knowledgebase that’s available to sort the problem yourself. Failing that, there’s live chat and email support available 24/7. Live chat has the fastest response time, but either way, you’re in good hands.

It’s a good value for your money, but the monthly rate isn’t good. Opting for a longer plan will save you money in the long run. There’s a 30-day refund period, in case you don’t like it.

Pros:

  • Huge network of servers
  • Excellent security
  • Double-hop encryption

Cons:

  • Can be slow
Starts from $ 349 per month
Save 71 %

CyberGhost

Next up is CyberGhost, which is a decent provider with great security. It has a permanently enabled kill switch, which means you don’t have to worry about it, and your online activities are not logged. 

It has a large number of servers that cover 59 countries, but none of them are in Russia, so you won’t be able to access restricted content. 

CyberGhost has fast speeds but, like NordVPN, it can become slow over long distances. You’ll get unlimited bandwidth, though, and it can get into most streaming services. It’s also a good choice for torrenting, with a list of servers that are optimized for that. Read our CyberGhost review for more on that.

Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost

CyberGhost can be installed on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The interface was recently updated and, although it’s not difficult to use, it may take some time to get used to. 

You can connect up to seven devices simultaneously, which is why it earned a place in our best VPN for multiple devices roundup. That said, seven is the limit for how many devices it can be installed on, too.

CyberGhost has one of the most extensive knowledgebases we’ve seen. On top of that, there’s live chat and email support. Both are good, but email is the better option for more technical problems.

It’s an inexpensive service, providing you sign up to a longer subscription, because the monthly rate is bad. There’s a seven-day free trial available for Android and iOS, so you can see if you like it. Plus, there’s a money-back guarantee, which is for 14 days on the monthly plan, but is 45 days if you’re on a longer one.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • 7 simultaneous connections
  • Automatic killswitch

Cons:

  • No killswitch controls
  • Can be slow
Starts from $ 275 per month
Save 79 %

VyprVPN

VyprVPN can also be used for Russia. It isn’t as good as our other choices, but it has excellent security, which is our main focus. You can customize the settings, so it’s great for tinkerers, but it’s good for beginners, too. A kill switch is included, and it won’t keep a record of your online shenanigans.

Along with the security, you’ll also get access to its proprietary Chameleon protocol, which adds even more protection to your connection. You can read more about that in our VyprVPN review.

VyprVPN’s server network is small compared to its rivals. There are less than 1,000 servers in total that cover 64 countries. However, it does have servers in Moscow, so if you need to access content restricted to Russia, this is the VPN for you.

Its speeds aren’t great, but they should be fine for most activities. There are no bandwidth caps, it allows for torrenting and you’ll be able to access most streaming platforms.

Other Reasons We Like VyprVPN

Clients are available for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The interface is dated, but it’s still easy to use. The number of devices you can simultaneously connect depends on which package you choose. The standard package allows up to three devices, whereas the premium package allows up to five. 

There’s a knowledgebase, live chat and email support available 24/7. However, in our review, we didn’t have the best experience with it. The knowledgebase isn’t great, and the answers from the support team were brief.

VyprVPN has two tiers for pricing: the standard package and the premium package. To use the Chameleon protocol, you’ll need to opt for the premium package, though. You can then choose from either a monthly or annual plan, but the yearly one works out cheaper. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try it first.

Pros:

  • Configurable security
  • Chameleon protocol
  • Many features

Cons:

  • Slow
  • Small server network
  • Interface is dated
Starts from $ 500 per month
Save 50 %

TorGuard

Our last selection is TorGuard. It’s a good provider and has some of the most customizable security on the market. A kill switch is included, which is automatically enabled, and a strict no-logs policy is in place.

TorGuard has more than 3,000 servers across 55 countries, but they no longer have servers in Russia, in case that’s what you want.

It has fast speeds, but they can vary on location. Plus, if you choose high-security settings, that can reduce the speed, too. There’s unlimited bandwidth, and it allows for torrenting. 

However, TorGuard can’t get into some streaming platforms, such as Netflix. There is a way around that, though. It has dedicated streaming IPs, which you can add to your package for a monthly fee. They’re guaranteed to work, though, which is why it came first in our best VPN with dedicated IPs guide. You can read more in our TorGuard review, too.

Other Reasons We Like TorGuard

It can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The mobile version can be annoying to set up, though. You can connect up to five devices at the same time, but if you need more, you can purchase up to 20 more at $1 each per month.

A handy knowledgebase, online resources and a forum are available if you need help. There’s also live chat, but it is manned by a general customer-support company, so it may not be the best choice for technical issues. There is email support available 24/7, though.

The monthly cost isn’t bad, but it works out better on longer plans. There’s a seven-day money-back guarantee, too, in case you don’t like it.

Pros:

  • Multiple security settings
  • Dedicated IPs
  • Plenty of add-ons to choose from

Cons:

  • Base version can’t get into Netflix
  • Difficult to switch servers
Starts from $ 500 per month

Final Thoughts

Now you know why it’s important to use a VPN while in Russia. We hope you’ve found our guide useful and have chosen a suitable VPN service. You should make sure it has excellent security and privacy, as well as a good server network for getting past blocks.

ExpressVPN is a clear winner due to its high-level security settings, dedication to privacy and many other features. It’ll hide your identity, and you’ll be able to get into pretty much anything with it. Why not give it a try with the 30-day money-back guarantee that’s on offer?

If you have experience using a VPN in Russia, tell us about it in the comment section. We’d love to hear about it. As always, thanks for reading.

Starts from $ 666 per month
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