Staunton, May 16 – Since the start of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the rapidly increasing repression in the Russian Federation, the citizens of that country have turned to the use of VPNs, “the virtual private networks,” that in many cases allow them to gain access to sites the Kremlin is seeking to block. Russia now ranks first in the world in terms of the number of VPN users.
What makes this increase especially significant is that before the war, Russia ranked only 58th; and its population is now far smaller than many other countries whose governments in many cases are not as unfriendly to Internet freedom as Moscow is (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/05/16/internet-strogo-po-protokolu).
The Russian authorities are responding by blocking sites that provide VPN instructions, but that effort does not appear to have slowed the rise in the use of this application, an indication that Russians who want to read what the powers that be don’t want them to are still able to do so in many cases.
Moscow blocked three VPN providers before the war began, and then it added 19 more to that banned list.