Apple Removes 25 VPNs from Its Russian App Store to Comply with Regulations

Written by Lore Apostol
Published on July 5, 2024

Apple reportedly blocked 25 mobile apps of VPN services placed in the Russian App Store as required by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), the Russian Tass news agency said, as the latter wants to eliminate these services completely.

The deputy head of the Parliamentary Committee on Information Policy in Russia called Apple “one of the few American companies that strive to comply with Russian legislation and maintain a dialogue with the regulator.” Apple previously paused all product sales and limited its Apple Pay service in Russia after the Ukraine invasion. 

A Russian lawmaker said earlier that Apple deleted Red Shield VPN, Le VPN, Proton VPN, and NordVPN from its App Store in compliance with Roskomnadzor's requirements. Red Shield VPN reportedly believes Apple's actions “actively support an authoritarian regime” and are driven by financial motives.

Reportedly, the free Russian service VPN Generator said another three products had also been removed. Around 150 VPNs are currently blocked in Russia, which motivated freelance programmers and VPN companies to build stronger tools to evade censors. 

Since March 1, 2024, Russia has actively banned distributing online information and promoting tools that can bypass the government’s blockades. Millions of people across Russia have downloaded VPNs to circumvent government content regulation, data control, and censorship and gain access to prohibited services. 

NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and IPVanish declined to comply with Russia’s local regulations in 2021. NordVPN still operates in Russia but has shut down its local servers.

In May, IPVanish created a free program offering journalists and other eligible individuals access to its VPN services in an effort to prevent potential online surveillance or suppression of free speech worldwide.

The information war with the West after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine saw Russia put tens of opposition media websites on blacklists and banned several foreign social media platforms.

In June, the U.S. announced a "first of its kind" ban on selling antivirus software made by Russian firm Kaspersky Lab in America due to its alleged links to the Kremlin, saying Kaspersky’s U.S. operations posed a significant national security risk.

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