Russia’s internet is sliding towards authoritarianism and complete muzzling of free speech. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led the former to restrict access to international news sources, chat apps, and social media. A VPN can help people in Russia access censored sites, apps, and services abroad. It also hides your IP address and encrypts your connection, so Russian ISPs cannot track what you do online.
If you can’t stick around to read the rest of this article, here’s a summary of our top VPN picks for Russia:
Best VPNs for Russia
- NordVPN Best all-around VPN for Russia. Huge network of blazing fast servers able to circumvent most restricted and geo-blocked sites. Best-in-class privacy and security features. 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Surfshark Best budget provider. Boasts powerful security and privacy protections, as well as physical servers in Russia. Has no connection limit.
- ExpressVPN Large network of servers, good speeds, and works with all popular streaming services. Solid security and privacy.
- CyberGhost Good for beginners, with some of the quickest servers that we’ve tested for streaming and downloading. Easy to set up and get going.
- IPVanish Preferred by Kodi and Fire TV Stick users for easy remote integration with app. Good speeds and great security features.
- VyprVPN Impressive speeds and goes to some lengths for privacy and security. Not the cheapest option on this list.
- Hotspot Shield A good choice for popular streaming sites. Offers fast speeds.
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The deteriorating nature of online freedoms in Russia necessitates the use of a VPN while browsing the web. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the traffic flowing to and from your device and routes it via an intermediary server of your choice. It spoofs your location from nosy surveillance agencies and hackers and makes it very difficult for intrusive elements to pry into your online behavior.
VPNs can also be used by bloggers, social media activists, and others to continue to post online anonymously and with a sharply reduced fear of getting caught (more on that later in this article). At the same time, a VPN greatly enhances your browsing experience by allowing you to regain access to your usual services (such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, and Vudu) while you travel.
The Best VPNs for Russia
Our list of the best VPNs for Russia is based on the following factors:
- Speed and stability of service
- A large network of servers across the world.
- Work with popular streaming services including Netflix
- Strong encryption parameters to maintain privacy and anonymity
- Ease of use
- Unlocks geo-restricted content without any problems
- Suitable for torrenting
- Apps for Android and iOS
Update: Russia has demanded several popular VPN providers link their servers in the country to the state censorship agency. As a result, many of the providers below have refused to comply and therefore do not currently have servers in Russia. However, you can still use these providers in Russia in order to bypass censorship. You just can’t connect to a Russian server or get a Russian IP address.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
NordVPN is our top choice for a Russia VPN. This is a mature VPN provider, having been in the business for over a decade. There’s a bunch of powerful features packed into an intuitive app – including options to connect to a server based on how you would like to use it such as streaming TV, ultra-secure privacy, anti-DDoS, or anonymity.
Both speeds and privacy were excellent during our extensive testing of the product. It abides by a rigorous no logs policy which means it retains absolutely no information about user sessions, traffic, or timestamps.
This policy has served to be a boon for people valuing privacy. There have been at least two instances where NordVPN was approached by government agencies, demanding that the company fork over user data. But there simply wasn’t any incriminatory information on its servers. Authorities even confiscated physical servers once but couldn’t glean any information out of it. Furthermore, the company is incorporated in Panama which means it’s not subjected to any mandatory data retention laws.
NordVPN operates one of the larger server networks we’ve seen with over 5,500 servers in 59 countries. Like we mentioned before, you can pick one for your specific requirement.
The service works with many online streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer. It allows torrenting. It’s one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, so you can stream and make video calls in high quality without buffering.
Encryption standards are tight. All traffic is secured via the 256-bit AES protocol by default and uses 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled. Your privacy and anonymity are pretty much assured.
There’s support for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android. You can install it on select routers via manual configuration.
- Extremely fast and reliable servers for HD streaming
- Operates over 5,500 servers in 60 countries around the globe
- Excellent streaming potential
- Strong encryption and no logs make for top security and privacy
- Automatic wifi protection for on-the-go security
- Live chat can assist you with manual configurations
- Their desktop app is a bit dated
BEST VPN FOR RUSSIA:NordVPN is our top choice. It boasts incredible speeds, offers solid security and privacy, and works reliably in Russia. Use up to 6 devices at once with great connection speeds. It’s risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Here’s our in-depth review of NordVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
Surfshark has a network of more than 1,700 servers in 60+ countries including Russia. It’s fast enough for most purposes and has exceptional unblocking ability, so you shouldn’t have any issues when torrenting or trying to watch Russian TV abroad. Better still, this service doesn’t limit the number of devices you can connect simultaneously, so it’s perfect for families or anyone looking to secure their whole household.
As if that wasn’t enough, Surfshark also comes packed with security features. These include a kill switch, protection against WebRTC, DNS, and IPv6 leaks, automatic ad-blocking and malware-scanning, and 256-bit encryption. A NoBorders feature is also present, which allows you to bypass strict country-wide blocking. Surfshark doesn’t log any personally identifiable info but you can pay in cryptocurrency for additional privacy. You can reach customer support over live chat or email, 24/7.
Surfshark offers apps for macOS, Android, Windows, iOS, and Linux. It also works with select wireless routers, although you’ll have to configure it manually.
- Connect as many devices as you like
- Fast enough for HD live streaming
- Wide range of security features and a no-logs policy
- Accepts three kinds of cryptocurrency
- 24/7 Live chat available
- Doesn’t have the largest network
BEST BUDGET OPTION:Surfshark is ideal for anyone looking to browse safely in Russia. It’s security-conscious, capable of securely accessing plenty of services, and has no connection limit. What’s more, this VPN keeps no logs and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Surfshark here.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
ExpressVPN offers a large network of over 3,000 servers spread across 94 countries, although it doesn’t specify how many exactly are located in that country. Foreign expatriates living in Russia and local citizens traveling abroad shouldn’t face any problems in acquiring a speedy and stable connection. Subscribers also have an option of connecting to a ‘smart location’ – in this case, the built-in AI will select the best server for you based on your current location.
Encryption protocols are uncompromising. ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES-CBC wit the utilization of both HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. An internet kill switch is included with all packages. The company refers to this as a ‘network lock’ – with the feature temporarily halting all web traffic if the connection drops. ExpressVPN doesn’t keep any logs that could identify users.
ExpressVPN works well with platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. Further, it supports torrents on all servers.
There are apps for Android and iOS. It’s also possible to use a desktop client for Linux, Windows, and macOS. The VPN can be configured will some routers.
- Fast server network is great for streaming and downloading
- Operates over 3,000 servers in 94 countries
- User location remains hidden with high-grade encryption
- Works with all manner of streaming services
- Gets around torrent tracker sites blocks without compromising privacy
- Slightly more expensive than some other options, use a discounting coupon below
SECURE VPN:ExpressVPN is a strong choice. Optimized for high-speed connections. Works well with Netflix and other streaming sites. Great on privacy and security. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our review of ExpressVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
CyberGhost will appeal to users on a budget who aren’t looking for a fancy VPN with a deluge of customizable options. It does its job quietly and efficiently but comes without the bells and whistles of the pricier VPNs on this list. Having said that, there is an adequate server network and both speeds and encryption standards are decent.
Currently, there are over 6,000 servers spread across 90 countries including 96 in Russia and a decent number in Eastern Europe and North America.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows, Linux, and macOS. Torrents are allowed on all servers except those in the USA, Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong.
Encryption standards are firm. The company avails 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included.
- Streams HD video seamlessly
- Keeps no user activity logs and provides strong encryption to bypass activity detection
- Some of the fastest streaming servers we’ve tested
- Operates over 6,000 servers around the globe with 96 in Russia
- Doesn’t work in China
EASY TO USE:CyberGhost has a simple set up. Works well in Russia. Good option if you are looking for a fast, reliable connection and an easy-to-use interface. 45-day money back guarantee.
Here’s our full review of CyberGhost.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
IPVanish emphasizes speed, security, and privacy. It’s a recommended option for users looking to download torrents and maintain the highest privacy settings. Our user review gave the service an impressive 8/10 rating and it’s easy to see why.
Users in Russia will be happy to know that IPVanish declines to store any user information. All details like session history, choice of servers, and bandwidth will be hidden.
Encryption parameters are unflinching. IPVanish leverages 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048 key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The latter feature means that even if hackers break into your account, which is a far-fetched scenario to begin with, it’ll still be impossible for them to decrypt past session data. Wireguard is now available as well for faster speeds.
An internet kill switch is included with all packages – adding an additional layer of security.
The service offers over 1,300 servers spread across 75 countries. At the moment there isn’t an option for Russia, but there are plentiful servers in former Soviet republics such as Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Bulgaria.
IPVanish doesn’t work reliably with some streaming services, but it does permit torrenting on all servers.
There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as a desktop client for Windows and macOS.
Many users find it an excellent option for Kodi because it allows them to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
- Completely logless service won’t compromise your privacy
- Impressive 4K streaming speeds achieved during testing
- Decent streaming ability
- Works well with remote control devices like Kodi
- Customer support is a little slow
LARGE SERVER NETWORK:IPVanish works with up to 10 connected devices. Fast connections, lightweight easy to use apps, good multi-platform support. Reliable in Russia but not with Netflix. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our review of IPVanish.
Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS
VyprVPN has some of the toughest encryption protocols we’ve seen. It complements this with around-the-clock online customer support service, a free 3-day trial, and a stupendous server network (over 700 servers). The company is able to overcome even the strictest barriers that governments impose on netizens.
The company is very popular with users in China where it easily unblocks the Great Firewall. This means that its proprietary tech is sophisticated enough to thwart thousands of state-appointed engineers that work around the clock to weave a massive web. That’s a considerable feat.
VyprVPN made a wise decision to physically own and manage entire data centers which help it finetune the service and puts it in a class above other VPN companies. The normal industry standard is to either rent servers or outsource to a third party. This helps VyprVPN further secure user traffic.
Said traffic is encrypted via the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s an internet kill switch included plus they now operate a strict no-logging policy. It’s also able to securely access Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
A premium version of the package allows access to the Chameleon™ protocol which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as a desktop client for Windows and macOS. It supports torrenting.
- Speeds are fast and stable
- Keeps no logs
- Utilizes AES-256 encryption, kill switch and DNS leak protection
- Can connect up to 6 devices simultaneously
- Apps are slick but lack advanced configuration options
- Not the cheapest option on this list
INDEPENDENT NETWORK:VyprVPN is user friendly. Good speeds and uptime as all servers are owned by VyprVPN. Not the cheapest option in this list. 30-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS
Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company.
Hotspot Shield has faced criticism in the past for its logging policy, but it has come a long way. It now only logs encrypted IP addresses during a VPN session but deletes them immediately afterward, so they can never be viewed by third parties. This provider offers excellent security features, including strong encryption, leak protection, a desktop kill switch, and automatic wifi protection (in the mobile apps). The best thing about this provider is its superior speeds, which make it a great choice for downloading large files.
Hotspot Shield uses shared IP addresses and imposes no bandwidth limit. It can securely access plenty of popular streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. With a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, you can always test the service out to see if it’s a good fit.
Apps are available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
- Large network of servers
- Very fast speeds for streaming HD content
- Strong encryption and other security features
- Allows 5 simultaneous connections
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Had past privacy issues
- Doesn’t accept cryptocurrency payments
GREAT LOW-COST VPN:Hotspot Shield comes at a low price and its fast speeds and excellent unblocking abilities make it a great option for browsing safely in Russia. It even comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full review of Hotspot Shield.
Russia VPN testing methodology
Finding a reliable VPN for Russia can result in a headache. There are many VPNs available on the market, but they do not all have Russian servers – or the privacy features you require to use a VPN without concerns about getting in trouble with the law.
To find VPNs that are highly effective and have solid privacy and security features, we use a carefully constructed VPN testing methodology. Below, we have included some of the most important features we looked for when testing VPNs for Russia:
- Reliable servers: To access restricted content in Russia and use the internet with privacy and added freedom, you will require a VPN with plenty of servers around the globe. In this guide, we pinpointed services with fast servers capable of HD streaming and torrenting. We also looked for servers in Russia to let you use local services while still encrypting your traffic for privacy reasons.
- Apps for all platforms: A useful VPN for Russia must have apps for all popular devices. This ensures that the VPN is versatile and can be used to gain privacy and online accessibility, whether at home, at work, or when using public wi-fi. In this guide, we have recommended VPNs with apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. We also recommended VPNs that let you use the VPN on multiple devices simultaneously.
- DNS leak protection. We tested each VPN to check that it is not suffering from IP or DNS leaks. We also checked for dedicated IPv4 and IPv6 leak protection to ensure that your browsing requests will always be safely proxied to prevent your ISP and the government from snooping on you.
- Military-grade encryption. The tunnel that is established between your device and the VPN server must be highly secure to stop it from being penetrated by eavesdroppers such as government snoops. In this guide, we have recommended top-tier services that provide secure VPN protocols with strong AES-256 encryption.
- Outstanding accessibility. Not all VPNs have servers that work to access popular international services. We tested VPNs for Russia to ensure that they can access Netflix US, iPlayer, Hulu, and apps and content that the government has censored, including apps like Telegram.
- Live chat support. In this guide, we have recommended VPNs that provide plenty of useful guides and FAQs on their website. Our recommendations also provide email and live chat support to let you get help with setting up and using the VPN.
How do I use a VPN in Russia?
In this section, we’ll take you through exactly how to set up your VPN. Follow the steps outlined here if you’re a foreign expatriate living in Russia looking to obtain an IP address from back home or another non-Russian location:
Here’s how to use a VPN in Russia:
- Browse through our recommended list of VPN services and decide on a plan that works for you
- Register and pay for the service
- Once that’s done, download the companion apps (for your phone) or software (for PC or macOS)
- Clear your cookies and cache in all web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Opera, UCWeb) to remove old location identifiers
- Restart your device
- Open the VPN companion software and login
- Select a server from the country you’re trying to obtain an IP address – such as Canada or Spain
- Allow a few seconds for the connection to be established. Once that’s done there should be a green notification icon in the taskbar or on the top of your smartphone screen
- Browse the web like you normally would. You’ll notice that host websites will assume your location is in the country you’re currently connected to and a bunch of previously unavailable content will now be accessible
If you are a Russian resident traveling abroad and want to access your usual services and websites from home, simply select a VPN with Russian servers and choose Russia in step 7 above.
Russia VPN FAQs
Should I use a free VPN?
Free VPNs are a dime a dozen and may pop up in your search results because they’re heavily advertised. But if you’re looking for a premium browsing experience then don’t pin your hopes on them.
Free VPNs have a habit of monetizing by blitzing you with invasive advertisements, inserting tracking cookies, and selling your data to advertisers. Some have also hijacked your bandwidth in order to turn you into a foot soldier in a massive botnet army.
Expect bandwidth throttling, data caps, and a severely limited selection of servers.
Some of the VPNs listed in the article offer a free trial. That’s a suitable option if you’re not sure whether to opt for a VPN completely. But we strongly advise that you avoid the random ones that exist on the internet. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
What’s the future of the internet in Russia?
Internet advocacy body Freedom House says the digital landscape of the country is “not free”, pointing to a series of new legislative amendments known as ‘Yarovaya’s Law’ which undermines the security of encrypted communications and increases government access to user data. “Inciting” or “justifying” terrorism online is now punishable with a maximum sentence of a 7-year jail term, with the Russian administration using vague and broad language in the bill to target social media users.
The monitoring agency puts the finger of blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the clampdown on online freedom is a direct attempt to consolidate his authority. Content critical of the government’s actions in Crimea and involvement in the Ukrainian conflict is constantly filtered with independent news outlets facing legal and economic pressures from the Kremlin.
If the last few years are any yardstick, it’s unlikely that the Russian internet landscape will witness a greater degree of freedom. Authorities have continued to use new legislation to restrict access to content related to radical Islam, conflict with Ukraine, or any form of organized political opposition.
Thousands of websites continue to be blocked without proper justification. In July, over 2,000 people marched through the streets of Moscow demanding that the government end all efforts to control and monitor what is posted online.
A series of new bills introduced in parliament, but not yet passed, are trying to force VPN providers operating in the country to adhere to a government-sanctioned list of blocked sites. The laws also include a clause which requires internet service providers to keep a six-month list of the websites users visit. Additionally, it’ll compel instant messaging services like WhatsApp to hand over encryption keys so that authorities can monitor the content of communications.
Human Rights Watch explains Russian intervention on the web has been a major policy of the state since 2012 after state authorities realized the need to prevent the kind of mass uprising witnessed during 2011-12. Previously the internet had been viewed as some sort of benign space without the effect to mold public opinion and ministries had largely focused their efforts on curtailing content on television, print, and radio.
The internet is now viewed as the only medium where there was a significant degree of opposition to the ruling party’s policies and one that needs to be brought under control. The situation now is so bad that ordinary Russian citizens are unaware of what constitutes free speech and what doesn’t. Arbitrary definitions of laws are used to silence the truth while state-run media outlets continue to spew out biased reporting, particularly when it comes to regional conflicts.
How do I blog anonymously in Russia?
We’ve mentioned before how the Kremlin is trying to silence bloggers with the threat of incarceration and violent physical assaults. That’s a scary thought. But if you’re an activist or a journalist, we understand how important it is to get your message out. After all, media is the fourth pillar of the state and free speech is necessary for democracies to flourish.
There’s a sufficient amount of detail and best practices in our guide on how to stay hidden while blogging on the internet. Try to follow the steps we’ve outlined in detail. There’s no guarantee of your privacy remaining hidden forever but we do believe you can guard yourself to a sufficient degree if you take adequate steps to minimize your digital footprint.
Are VPNs Legal in Russia?
Although VPNs are not illegal in Russia, those that Russian consumers can use must be state-approved and licensed by the government. VPNs that are not state-approved are subject to blocks in the country, and a number of services are under investigation by the Kremlin for allegedly facilitating criminal activities harmful to national security
What’s more, a series of new bills introduced in parliament, but not yet passed, are trying to force VPN providers operating in the country to adhere to a government-sanctioned list of blocked sites. The laws also include a clause that requires internet service providers (including VPNs) to keep a six-month list of the websites users visit.
If passed, these laws could be harmful to the VPN ecosystem in Russia. However, it is worth noting that the Kremlin will have trouble executing many of the laws it has passed (and is seeking to pass) in practice. That said, Russia’s laws have the potential to turn online service providers such as ISPs, messaging services, social media platforms, and VPNs into de facto criminal enterprises, simply because it is so hard to comply with all the Yarovaya laws.
Due to the ongoing political situation, the use of VPNs in Russia is better viewed as something of a gray area. Generally speaking, the use of a VPN to engage in activities that are not illegal should not get you in trouble. However, getting access to a VPN download from within Russia can be hard in the first place, and those who will be traveling there soon will profit from getting a VPN subscription and VPN apps installed prior to their visit.
Finally, it is important to note that using a VPN to access content the government has censored for political reasons can be considered a breach of anti-terrorism laws. For this reason, we strongly urge you to do your own research before deciding to use a VPN. None of the information in this guide constitutes legal advice, and the use of a VPN is done so at your own risk.
What sites and apps have been blocked in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine?
Since the start of the Ukraine invasion, Russia has doubled down on internet censorship. Russia officially made negative discussion of the war illegal and has detained those who speak out against it.
Some of the recently blocked apps and websites include:
- BBC News
- Deutche Welle
- Amnesty International
- Radio Free Liberty
- Voice of America
- Most Ukrainian news sites
- Several foreign currency and cryptocurrency exchanges
In total, more than 500 domains were added to Russia's registry of blocked sites since the start of the war with Ukraine. You can access any of them in private using one of the VPNs recommended above.