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With censorship on the rise just about everywhere you turn, it’s important to find ways to protect your privacy online. Russia for instance is one of the most restrictive and surveilled countries in the world. Hundreds of popular websites like LinkedIn and Twitter are either heavily censored or completely blocked from their citizens.
To access the free internet with confidence, we recommend using a virtual private network (VPN). Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find a reliable VPN for Russia. With new restrictions passed each year, many VPN providers have cautioned users to their limitations or pulled servers out of Russia altogether.
After researching dozens of providers, we found just a few that were up to the task. All five VPNs in this list successfully hid my IP address, passed multiple leak tests, and stealthily bypassed Russian censorship.
Top 5 VPNs for Russia
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Emerging VPN with a sleek UI & industry-low pricingVisit Surfshark
- Great value for the money
- Top pick for unblocking streaming sites
- Unlimited device connections
- Based in the Netherlands
- Slow upload speeds on far-away servers
Overall, Surfshark came out on top as the best VPN for Russia. Cheaper than the price of a cup of coffee per month, Surshark offers the best value for your money. It’s one of the last VPN providers to offer physical servers in Russia (Moscow), and in total, provides more than 3,200 servers across 65 countries. All of its servers come with Private DNS protection, utilize obfuscation technology, and offer P2P file sharing, making Surfshark one of the best VPNs for torrenting on the market.
Yes, at first we too winced at the thought of Russian agencies getting their grimy hands on customers’ data. But we have full confidence in recommending it after reviewing this third-party audit by Cure53 that verified Surfshark’s no-logs policy. Even if Russia had access to its servers, Surfshark servers do not collect any identifiable logs of its users.
If you wish to play it safe, Surfshark also offers servers in neighboring countries like Romania and Ukraine, so you can still enjoy the fast speeds needed to unblock streaming content like Netflix, Disney+, and more.
Surfshark is based in the BVI, which is one of the most privacy-friendly countries for a VPN company to lay claim. With unlimited connections on a single Surfshark subscription, you can protect all your devices and configure each to your specific needs. In a highly restrictive country like Russia, it’s also a plus to have advanced features like Surfshark’s NoBorders mode or Camouflage mode that work towards your privacy.
You can try Surfshark out risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee. Or, if you’d like to learn more information, read our in-depth Surfshark VPN Review.
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Powerful VPN with diverse functionalityVisit ExpressVPN
- Fast, reliable speeds
- Verified no-logs policy
- Safe, unrestricted torrenting/P2P
- No kill switch on iOS
- Pricey subscriptions
- No WireGuard support
Despite pulling out its Russian servers in 2019, ExpressVPN is still considered a top VPN for Russia. It’s fast, employs airtight encryption, and successfully bypasses firewalls. Also, it’s one of the few providers based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a rare beacon for privacy and internet freedom.
ExpressVPN provides servers in neighboring countries like Belarus, Finland, Romania, and Ukraine that are optimized to obfuscate Russian censors. Because of their proximity to Russia, users in Moscow and Saint Petersburg don’t lose much in the way of speed. ExpressVPN even advertises a list of websites it can access that include BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Twitter. It’s also one of the best VPNs that work with Netflix.
This VPN also passed IP/WebRTC/DNS leak tests we put it through on our end. But if you need further reassurance, consider this independent audit by PwC it underwent (and passed). ExpressVPN’s AES 256-bit encryption and verified no-logs policy put it towards the top as a safe VPN for Russian users.
The one caveat we have to note is its price. If you’re on a budget, we recommend looking at some of the other VPNs on this list. Even at a discount, it’s nearly twice as expensive as the next VPN on this list (NordVPN). Still, we find the value it provides to be justification enough for ranking it a top Russian VPN.
For more in-depth information, read our ExpressVPN Review.
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Feature-rich VPN with strong privacy practicesVisit NordVPN
- Sleek app that's easy to use
- Vast array of security features
- Fast download speeds
- Expensive short-term plan
- Does not accept PayPal
- Basic browser extensions
Based in Panama, NordVPN is another trustworthy VPN for people in Russia. It’s private, secure, and fast on nearby servers. Better yet, NordVPN went out of its way to reassure users of their privacy, undergoing a third-party audit by PwC. The results of this testing confirmed that NordVPN is free of IP and DNS leaks, collects zero logs, and delivers fast speeds as promised.
NordVPN also uses AES 256-bit encryption, an automatic kill switch, and a security feature called DoubleVPN that reroutes your data through encrypted channels twice for added protection against Russian censors. Subscribers can choose from its massive network of nearly 5,500 servers in 59 countries. And, all of this is easily configurable through its sleek app that’s great for beginners.
Similar to ExpressVPN, NordVPN made the tough decision to pull its physical servers out of Russia after government regulations became too invasive. However, we were still able to get decent speeds on nearby European servers all the same.
A single subscription comes with 6 simultaneous connections and wide compatibility. It’s also one of the more affordable premium VPNs if you select a multi-year contract like its 2-year plan that costs $4.13/mo.
For more in-depth information, read our NordVPN Review.
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Privacy-focused VPN that’s also great for streamingVisit VyprVPN
- Ideal for streaming
- Audited no-logs policy
- Easy to use
- Limited payment options
- iOS app lacks some features
- No illegal torrents
An industry leader in terms of privacy, VyprVPN packs a lot into its budget-friendly service. It’s easy to set up and comes with multiple security measures like AES-256 encryption, public WiFi protection, and an automatic kill switch. With connections frequently dropping in Russia, this is a must-have feature if you plan to access restricted content.
VyprVPN has a solid network that spans 70 server locations, giving users plenty of connection options for streaming and torrenting. It’s actually one of the few reliable VPNs to still have servers in Russia, meaning you can connect to a Russian IP address if you ever need to access local content there. If you’re looking to access websites otherwise banned in Russia, there are VyprVPN servers in 29 other European countries to connect to as well.
VyprVPN’s longest 3-year subscription costs just $1.66 per month and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee in case it’s not for you.
For more in-depth information, read our VyprVPN Review.
5. Astrill VPN
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Blazing fast VPN packed with extra featuresVisit Astrill VPN
- Free seven-day trial
- Fantastic connection speeds
- No refunds given
- Missing some server locations
Completing our list of top five VPNs for Russia is Astrill VPN. It’s one of the most reliable VPNs to actually work in highly-censored countries, with servers specifically designed with Russia in mind. It’s headquartered in Seychelles, which is one of a few privacy-friendly jurisdictions in the world. And while its network is much smaller than other competitors, Astrill is equally as effective at obfuscating your true identity online.
Users have access to over 300 torrent-friendly servers in 58 countries. The most helpful ones for people in Russia to connect to are its Moscow servers or nearby servers in Finland, Romania, or Ukraine. In addition to its location selection, Astrill VPN also comes with configuration settings and protocols to choose from that maximize your privacy and security. Important features we needed to see were an automatic kill switch and IPv6/DNS leak protection – which it has.
In addition, AstrillVPN supports nine different open-source and proprietary encryption protocols to not only protect your identity and web traffic from Russian government surveillance.
AstrillVPN is the most expensive VPN on this list, and for that, it earns the last spot. However, the anonymity and encryption it provides make it too strong a contender to leave out. There are no money-back guarantees, but Astrill does offer a 7-day free trial before processing any payments.
For more in-depth information, read our Astrill VPN Review.
Russia VPN FAQs
- Can I use a VPN in Russia?
- What popular sites are banned in Russia?
- Do any VPNs have servers in Russia?
- Where are VPNs illegal?
- What VPNs pulled their servers after Russia’s 2016 restrictions?
1. Can I use a VPN in Russia?
Yes, you can legally use a VPN in Russia. Russian doesn’t ban the use of VPNs outright, but it does highly regulate and monitor web traffic that flows through its servers. Internet freedoms in Russia continue to decline, so we recommend using a VPN online at all times to allow for the most access to content.
2. What popular sites are banned in Russia?
The Russian government maintains a growing list of websites banned within its borders. It claims this is to protect citizens from “extremist” content but is more truthfully used as a means to remove politically sensitive information.
Two popular services that are banned in Russia to this day include LinkedIn and ProtonMail. LinkedIn was banned in 2016 for not housing data about Russian citizens on Russia-based servers. ProtonMail was banned for not giving the Russian government access to its users’ data (as it’s a highly encrypted email service).
There are hundreds of other websites that, while not completely banned, are still heavily regulated. Amazon Web Services, Google, and Twitter are among the top sites restricted in Russia.
3. Do any VPNs have servers in Russia?
4. Where are VPNs illegal?
While it’s perfectly legal to use a VPN in most of the world, there are a handful of restrictive areas that either heavily regulate or outright ban VPNs in their country.
Countries where VPNs are illegal include Belarus, Iraq, and North Korea.
Countries, where VPNs are heavily regulated, include China, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
5. What VPNs pulled their servers after Russia’s 2016 restrictions?
In 2016, Russia sent notices to ten popular VPN providers instructing them to ban access to all websites on Russia’s censored list or face a ban of their own. The notified services included ExpressVPN, Hide My Ass, Hola VPN, IPVanish, Kaspersky, NordVPN, OpenVPN, TorGuard, VPN Unlimited, and VyprVPN.
Many VPNs above – as well as ones not notified– responded to this message by pulling their Russian servers out. A few notable providers include ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Private Internet Access. The only one from the list to comply with Russia’s order that we know of was Kaspersky, but that’s not surprising given it’s the only Russian VPN on that targeted list.