Russia is no stranger when it comes to making controversial decisions – especially ones that affect how the Internet works in the country. Personal freedoms are under attack, as foreign websites are getting blocked on a regular basis. Besides, Russian ISPs and telecoms are some of the worst when it comes to collecting data about their users. To help you avoid all this, we’ll be discussing the best VPNs for Russia in 2021 – each with its own merits.
Do note that Russia is in a constant battle against VPN services. The government has asked a small group of prominent VPNs to implement a list of blocked websites or face a complete ban in the country. Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN was the only one to comply with the decision – unsurprising, considering the VPN’s operations base is in Russia.
The rest have simply decided to shut down their Russian-based servers in an effort to stay committed to user privacy and security. Fortunately, some have also implemented new server nodes in adjacent countries. As such, you can still enjoy decent speeds since the distance between you and the VPN server plays an important role in connection quality.
Moreover, some entries on our list still have servers in Russia. Of course, how long that’s going to last remains to be seen.
Here Are Our Top Russia VPN Picks for 2021
Let’s take a look at five different VPN providers that are worth using in Russia. None of the following entries keep any logs, which is absolutely crucial in a country known for its privacy-invasive practices.
1. ExpressVPN – Best All-rounder VPN for Russia
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ExpressVPN was one of the VPNs targeted by the Russian Roskomnadzor. As expected, the provider has remained committed in its fight for Internet freedom and refused to implement the country’s list of blocked websites.
To avoid any sanctions, ExpressVPN no longer offers servers within Russia. However, you can still use it to connect to foreign servers and unblock the Web. It offers servers in neighboring countries such as Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, and others, for a whopping 94 total countries to choose from.
While it doesn’t have obfuscated servers (like other providers on the list), ExpressVPN works perfectly fine in countries like Russia and China – which are known for their aggressive stance against VPNs. It features lightning-fast speeds and can unblock various streaming platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and more.
You can read more about it in our ExpressVPN review, where we delve deeper into matters of performance, privacy, and other qualities of the VPN.
- Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; Lightway, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2/IPSec, PPTP.
- Servers Available in Russia: No local servers; 3,000+ servers worldwide
- Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.
2. NordVPN – Fast VPN for Russia with Great Coverage
Yet another VPN that refused to comply with the Russian media regulator’s demands and subsequently shut down its Russian servers on April 1st, 2019. NordVPN features a wide network of fast servers worldwide – including neighboring countries, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Additionally, NordVPN offers obfuscation, which disguises your VPN traffic as regular traffic. Highly useful in case Internet regulations in Russia become even more stringent, which is likely to be the case in the future.
Unsurprisingly, NordVPN works with most major streaming platforms as well. Take a look at our NordVPN review to see more details, including speed tests and a look at some extra features that distinguish it from the competition.
- Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, Wireguard (NordLynx), IKEv2/IPSec.
- Servers Available in Russia: No VPN servers in Russia; 5,466 servers worldwide
- Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.
3. CyberGhost VPN – Best Russia VPN for Streaming
A provider based in Romania that wasn’t on the list of VPNs asked to comply with the new Russian law. As a result, CyberGhost VPN still operates 36 servers in St. Petersburg. It’s worth noting that CyberGhost’s server list mentions that they aren’t physically located in Russia.
Since they are virtual locations, this might allow them to quickly pull out of the country if the Roskomnadzor sends them a similar demand as stated above. In the meantime, Russian users may still enjoy the full extent of their services.
Another thing worth mentioning is that CyberGhost VPN has a server recommendation feature that can help you choose the optimal server for different scenarios. Streaming on different platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, BBC iPlayer), fast and secure torrenting, the works.
You can read more about it (and their service in general) in our full CyberGhost VPN review.
- Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, IKEv2, Wireguard, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP.
- Servers Available in Russia: 36 virtual servers in St. Petersburg.
- Money-Back Guarantee: 14 days (for 1 month plans); 45 days (6+ month plans).
4. Surfshark – P2P-friendly and Reasonably Priced
Surfshark is a newer VPN service but rose through the ranks pretty quickly to become one of the top-recommended providers. You’ll be surprised by its highly polished UI, high-end security features, and the ability to unblock media streaming websites.
At the moment, Surfshark is offering “two different locations (St. Petersburg and Moscow), consisting of 15+ servers” in Russia, according to their customer support. All of these servers support Surfshark’s private DNS, Camouflage Mode, and are P2P-friendly (i.e., great for torrenting).
Moreover, since the VPN is still flying under the radar, it hasn’t been asked to comply with the Russian government’s new requests. This means users in Russia, as well as users around the world, can use it with no limitations.
To learn more, make sure to read our full Surfshark review.
- Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, IKEv2.
- Servers Available in Russia: 2 locations; 15+ virtual servers.
- Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.
5. Private Internet Access (PIA) – Court-Proven No-Logs VPN for Russia
PIA has removed their Russian VPN servers as early as July 2016, due to “a new law that mandates that every provider must log all Russian internet traffic for up to a year.” Fortunately, the VPN provider still boasts a whopping 19,600+ servers in 97 locations across 76 countries – including Russia-neighboring countries.
If you’re concerned about privacy in Russia, you’ll be happy to know that PIA has proven its no-logs policy in court twice already. Your data isn’t stored on the provider’s servers, meaning there’s no risk of it being exposed to potential government seizures. Not that there was any risk of that anyway, seeing as they don’t have servers in Russia anymore.
For more detailed info on the provider, check out our complete Private Internet Access review.
- Encryption & VPN Protocols: AES-256; OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec
- Servers Available in Russia: No Russian VPN servers; 19,661 servers worldwide.
- Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days.
How to Use a VPN in Russia
It’s actually quite easy to use a VPN if you live in Russia (or anywhere else, for that matter). Here’s what you need to do:
- Sign up with one of the VPN providers mentioned above (we recommend ExpressVPN).
- Install the VPN app on your desktop and mobile devices. These five top Russia VPN providers support most major platforms nowadays, as well as multiple connections. Make sure you secure all your devices against hacking and surveillance!
- Run the VPN app and log in using your account info.
- Click or tap on a VPN server from the list (preferably outside Russia if your goal is to unblock any of the websites blocked by the government).
- That’s it!
Which Websites Were Blocked in Russia and Why?
The Russian government is currently pushing to create its own “sovereign Internet“, one which it can control and censor as it pleases. As for which websites were blocked in Russia, they usually fall into a couple of categories:
- Content that’s critical of the Russian government, or which they consider “harmful” to Russian citizens. For example, Wikipedia articles discussing illegal activity were blocked, and the government has taken steps to create its own Wikipedia.
- Online gambling websites (and websites that use ads which promote gambling). Content related to pornography, suicide, drugs, and alcohol are similarly banned in the country.
- Shutterstock was also blocked as part of the “Internet sovereignty” initiative.
- Cryptocurrency websites have been restricted in an attempt to fight against a “shadow economy.”
- Websites that were the subject of copyright complaints (such as Dailymotion, and over 6,000 pirate websites).
- Websites that store data about Russian citizens outside of its borders (with the notable example of LinkedIn).
- Russia also blocked ProtonMail and StartMail, two encrypted email providers that were accused of protecting actors behind fake bomb threats. Both providers have stated that the Russian authorities never reached out to them.
- Tutanota and Mailfence were another two encrypted email providers blocked by the Russian government, in what appears to be a war on encrypted communication.
- Archive.is, archive.org, archive.ec were blocked for containing “extremist content.”
On a final note, even though some domains can be accessed in Russia, users may find that website functionality is limited.
Will Using a VPN in Russia Help Me Unblock These Websites?
Absolutely. Once you’ve connected to a VPN server outside Russia, you’ll be able to access all the content restricted by the Roskomnadzor. Provided it’s not also blocked in the country you’re connecting to, that is. If that’s the case, try switching to a different location in the VPN app.
Should You Use a Free VPN in Russia? (No, and Here’s Why)
Anything “free” sounds tempting, and a free VPN for Russia is no different – especially since the country’s economy isn’t doing too great. However, free VPNs are almost always bad news, for a few specific reasons, which you can read about below.
1. Free VPNs Log and Sell Your Data
One reason you may want to use a VPN for Russia is to escape the country’s Orwellian mass surveillance from ISPs. What you do online should be your business only, right? As such, you’ll need a no-logs VPN like those listed above to prevent anyone from gathering your private data.
In fact, that’s not even a guarantee in itself. In July 2020, seven supposedly “no-logs” free VPNs leaked the data of 20 million users. All of those seven VPNs came from the same Hong Kong-based developer, and users were likely unaware of this fact. You’re better off not risking your account and payment info like that.
2. You Might Get a Malware Infection
Over one third of free Android VPNs have been found to contain malicious code, while 80% of the top 20 free iOS VPNs were not following the App Store guidelines. Google isn’t doing much to vet these applications on their platform, and it seems Apple are slipping up too, despite their’s stores strict guidelines. As such, picking up any random free VPN may end in disaster.
3. Free VPNs are Severely Limited
Not even the best free VPNs out there offer much in terms of functionality:
- Very few available servers – your options for international content are limited, and you’d be sharing those servers with thousands of other people (meaning low speeds and congestion are a huge problem).
- Limited data caps – you’re looking at 10 GB of data allowance per month, which nowadays is nowhere near enough for more than a few minutes of browsing a day. Nevermind watching any high quality video without rapidly burning through your MBs.
- No support for streaming platforms – even if the provider offers unlimited data, that won’t be of much use considering free VPNs are some of the first to be blocked by any streaming sites.
- Mostly non-existent customer support – as it stands, free providers struggle to pay for their limited platforms while still retaining a bit of profit, so you’re unlikely to get any technical help with the VPN service.
All in all, you’re better off with one of our top recommended VPNs for Russia – most with years of experience to back up their quality services.
The situation surrounding the use of VPNs in Russia can be a confusing one. So, we’ve answered some commonly asked questions – found below.
Do VPNs Work in Russia?
Yes, you can use VPN services in Russia. However, keep in mind that the Russian government tends to regulate the use of VPNs. This is why we recommend using a reliable VPN with a history of providing services in highly restrictive countries (such as ExpressVPN, for example).
Are VPNs Legal in Russia?
VPNs are not explicitly banned in Russia. However, back in 2017, Russia introduced new laws to regulate the use of VPN services. As per this law, VPNs are obligated to implement the country’s list of banned websites. However, in practice, this never truly happened. The country is still trying to persuade and force VPNs to implement this change. This is also the reason why many VPNs no longer offer servers in Russia.
Is It Safe to Use a VPN in Russia?
Generally speaking, it’s safe to use a VPN in Russia. However, don’t expect to get away with illegal activities just because you use a VPN. While a VPN may keep your data secure and respect your privacy, Russian law enforcement may use different methods of detecting foul play.
How Can I Get a Russian IP Address?
You’ll need a VPN with servers located in Russia. To get the most up-to-date list of recommended VPNs, here’s our dedicated article on how to get a Russian IP address.
And there you have it, the best VPNs for Russia, something fit for every occasion. Whether you’re looking for a way to get a Russian IP address, fast speeds for streaming, or just an all-around great solution for privacy and security, these providers have everything you need.