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Meduza’s brief guide to accessing VPNs blocked by the Russian authorities [Russia]

Russia. On June 2, Russia’s censorship agency confirmed that it is working to block VPN services that allegedly “violate Russian law.” Given the high degree of Internet censorship in Russia today, many people rely on VPNs (virtual private networks) to circumvent online blocks. As of this writing, users in Russia are already reporting problems accessing several services, including ProtonVPN, Lantern, and Outline VPN. 

Originally published by Meduza.

If you’re experiencing problems with your VPN in Russia right now, here’s what you can do. 

Please note. These instructions are also available in Russian! You can find them on Meduza’s website or in this shareable Google Doc. We also have a quick guide to accessing online resources blocked by the Russian authorities, which you can read in English here or in Russian here (the Russian guide is also available in a Google Doc).

‘Play’ with your VPN’s settings

  • Some VPN services (like OpenVPN or WireGuard) can work with several VPN protocols at once. Try switching between them.
  • Some VPNs use obfuscated servers to disguise their traffic. This hides the fact that you’re using a VPN, making it harder for Internet providers to block it. Try enabling this option if it’s available.

Contact your VPN’s customer support

  • Write an email, find a forum, or contact your VPN provider via social media or their official website. They may already know how to fix the problem.
  • Customer support should also be able to tell you if the problems you’re experiencing aren’t related to Roskomnadzor blocking your VPN. The problem could be due to ongoing hardware or software updates and may resolve itself in a day or two. 
  • If your VPN provider’s website is blocked, try opening it in the Google cache so you can find links to their social media profiles or an email address. Or download and install the Tor browser on your computer or phone to circumvent the block. 

Try a different VPN or app

Choosing the right VPN requires some effort: you have to look at independent reviews, understand the company’s business model, and learn about its owners.

  • If you’re short on time, at least have a look at different lists of VPNs recommended by experts. 
  • We do not recommend using free VPN services (sometimes they earn money by collecting and selling users’ data). Some VPN providers offer free versions with paid upgrades or free access for a limited period of time, which you can use to figure out if they are blocked in Russia or not. 
  • Ask your friends if the VPNs they use are still working. 
  • Try out other apps that allow you to circumvent Internet blocks — like with WARP

Further reading:

Meduza’s brief guide to accessing online resources blocked by the Russian authorities

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